e3941297e17226345b367b4f61e62e3e98e44947f806b5be70

    How Much Should You Write Every Day?

    A Guest Post by Ali Luke of Aliventures.com

    Ask a dozen different writers “How much do you write each day?” and you’ll get a dozen different answers.

    Some will only work at weekends. Some will consider 500 words a great day; others won’t be satisfied with anything less than 3,000 words. Some won’t worry about their wordcount at all: they’ll write for a set period of time instead.

    All too often, I see writers getting stressed-out by trying to hit some arbitrary word count. If you follow Stephen King’s advice in On Writing, you’ll be aiming for 1,000 words per day; if you’re a fan of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, you’ll be doing your three morning pages (around 750 words) before you even attempt your other writing.

    You might find that 1,000 words or 750 words works for you. Heck, you might find that you’re most comfortable when you’re producing 3,000 words each day – or 3,000 words each week. But if you’re not yet in the habit of writing on a regular basis, 1,000 words may well be too much.

    There’s no set formula for how much you should write every day.

    (And you don’t even have to write on a daily basis: writers are allowed to take days off.)

    What you need to figure out is how much you should write every day, or every week, in order to make consistent progress and feel good about your writing.

    To start with, you need to think about how you work as a writer.

    Understand Your Writing Process

    Personally, I write fast. I like to get words down on the page, and I’m happy to go back and tear out huge great chunks if they don’t work. (I cut my novel Lycopolis from 135,000 words to 85,000 – and that was after several radically different drafts.)

    But other writers are more meticulous, and you could well be one of them. If you want to get every page right before moving on, you’re not going to produce thousands of words every day. A great day for you might be two pages (500 words) – but those will be pages that are as good as you can make them.

    Some writers thrive on routine. They’re steady and consistent, producing 1,000 words every day without fail. Others thrive on adrenaline. They’ll write nothing for days or weeks, then blaze through 5,000 words in a day.

    How do you prefer to write? What might make a good starting goal (daily or weekly) for you?

    Build Your Writing Muscles

    When you follow an exercise regime, you’ll gradually be able to lift heavier weights and run longer distances. Your writing ability is a bit like a muscle: the more you use it, the stronger it’ll become.

    Right now, a realistic goal for you could be writing 500 words each day. In six months time, those 500 words might have become 1,000. In a few years, you could be producing 2,000 words that you’re happy with, every single day.

    But … if you lift weights that are too heavy for you, or try to run too far, you’ll injure yourself – and if you push yourself to write far too much, you’ll risk exhaustion and burnout.

    There’s no point in writing 1,000 words a day for two weeks if you end up so frazzled and stressed that you never finish what you started. Take your time to build up to your ideal writing target.

    If you’ve been sticking to the same daily or weekly target for a while, step it up a notch. Instead of writing 500 words, write 600. Instead of writing 1,000 words, write 1,200. Don’t try to increase too far, too fast, though.

    Should You Write Daily?

    I touched on this earlier, but I think it’s such an important point that it’s worth coming back to.

    You don’t have to write every day.

    Some writers like to, and if it works for you, that’s fantastic – stick with it! But if you find yourself constantly struggling to write, or producing joyless, lackluster words, then try changing your routine around. Give yourself a weekly word target instead of a daily one.

    There are no rules about how often you should write or how much you should write. What’s important is that you establish a strong writing routine that works for you, so that you feel happy and confident about your progress, and so you can gradually increase your output until you’re writing as much as you want to.

    How much do you write every day (or week)? If you want to write more, what’s holding you back? Share your thoughts, ideas, and struggles in the comments…

    Ali Luke is a writer and writing coach, and loves everything to do with words especially blogging. If you’d like to make great progress with your writing, check out her post on Nine Writing Milestones to Celebrate (and Aim For).

    About the author

      Ali Luke

      Ali Luke’s free mini-ebooks Time to Write and The Two-Year Novel are for any writer who wants to fit in some extra writing (and enjoy it more)! You can download them here when you sign up to her weekly email newsletter – which includes writing tips, discounts, and more.

    • Ashvin says:

      Hi Ali,
      At times I’ve felt like a tortoise when writing, taking ages to reach the finish. It saps your energy. I try to do two things differently now: get a lot of my thinking done before I start writing, and ignore my internal editor when I write my first draft.

    • Kiki Rose says:

      Personally, my alias Kiki only has one measly book. However, my real name which I will not divulge to anyone, I have about 10 books out and I do write for a living on that name. So, I agree with you, it definitely depends on if you are used to writing or not. Between yesterday and today I wrote over 11,000 words, but my mind works faster than most people’s and I can easily write that much in one day, every single day :o)

      I wouldn’t say I have a “routine” per say, however, what I do tend to do is put out what I want in order and write it, then if an idea pops up in my head, but I’m not sure where I should place it in the story, I create a few blank pages between the story and the idea I just came up with (so I don’t forget it) and then see if I can work it into the story down the line. I also tend to go back after I am done and read it myself so I know it makes sense, delete what I need to and add what I need to.

    • Catherine says:

      I am trying to write my first book.. Over the years I have had ideas for a book which I jotted down on hundreds of bits of paper, which now take up three full drawers in my spare room. I have never actually sat down to evolve any of these ideas. Now I am embarking on this journey with delight and dread. I have yet to find a work schedule, I could be in the middle of washing up when I would get an idea and immediately would have to go to my computer to write it down. I gave up on pen and paper. except when I’m out and about. I bring them with me to jot down things I see or hear that I find interesting they may not lead to anything I find it helps……..

    • Bob Sharpe says:

      I write on adrenaline (and caffeine). It’s called “binge writing.”

      It took me exactly 3 weeks to write ‘How to Be a Network Marketing Millionaire’ (318 pages, including TOC, index and stuff). I didn’t do much else during that 3 weeks. I also repurposed some of the trainings I had given over the years.

      My next book, ‘You Ought to Write a Book,’ took longer, because I wrote in shorter, spaced-out binges, and my writing was interrupted for 2 months by a death in the family. I started it in February and didn’t finish until July.

      When the thoughts are flowing, I try not to stop writing – even if it’s 3:00 AM. A lot of it comes out as a “shitty draft” as Elizabeth said in her post. Write while the thoughts are flowing. Go back and polish it up (or spit some if it out) later.

    • yasser says:

      hahahahahahahahahahahaha writing is easy. i write a 1000 words about a particular story daily nonstop!

    • Love this. Pretty much, there is no “right” way to do it. You have to lift the proper amount of weight according to how strong you currently are. Build on it little by little.

      I use 750words.com. I like writing daily. At least 750 words but sometimes I write 1000-2200 words. Depends on what’s on my mind. I’m one of those people that needs to write or I get fussy. 🙂

    • I write most everyday, but I do try to take breaks—brief breaks throughout the week and a full weekend day off here and there. I love your points about finding what works for each of us individually. There’s no one “right” way, and finding what jives best for us can go a long way toward our success.

      Great post and blog!

    • In a conversation between James Chartrand (Men with Pens) and Jon Morrow (Copyblogger, GuestBlogging.com), Jon said that he writes at least 1,000 words a day, every day, and that if he takes more than a short break, he can tell the difference when he comes back to it. He felt that consistency of writing is more important than word count and admitted that a part-time writer would not need to have the same goals as a full time writer like he is.

      I felt liberated by a lesson in James Chartrand’s Damn Fine Words writing course when I learned that it’s okay to write “shitty drafts.” What that meant was that I could write, write, write for practice and production, then go back to it for polishing later. So now I usually have pieces at different stages in the pipeline. A few outlines, a few “shitty drafts,” and a few almost ready to hit “Publish.”

      • Ali Luke says:

        I think part-time vs full-time is an important distinction … now I write for a living, 3,000+ words per day isn’t uncommon for me, but that would have been completely unrealistic when I was working full time (or even studying).

        And I’m 100% with James about first drafts! My non-fiction drafts tend to come out fairly coherent, usually because I plan carefully before starting, but my fiction first drafts are *very very* rough.

    • My “writing” commitment is 15 minutes a day, Monday through Friday, no matter what. For me, “writing” is any activity that leads to completing a writing project I intend to share with others — so research, interviewing characters, drawing a map of the story’s setting, drafting, revising, even writing copy that will promote my upcoming book and a whole lot more — counts as writing time. But journaling for myself only, while a worthwhile activity, does not count as “writing” time. I keep the commitment small for many reasons (if you’re curious, see my post at http://baneofyourresistance.com/2009/05/19/15-magic-minutes/). I usually set targets beyond the commitment. So when I was drafting the last chapters in the book, my targets were anywhere from 2 to 6 hours a day. Targets are stretch goals, so if I meet a target, it’s great, but if I don’t, I don’t sweat it as long as I honor the commitment to 15 minutes a day, 5 times a week.

      • Ali Luke says:

        I think that’s a great approach, Rosanne, separating a commitment from a target. And I like your inclusion of other activities in “writing” time, too; there’s so much that’s important beyond just putting words on the page. (Though that’s my favourite part. :-))

    • Julie says:

      Ah this is close to my heart. Thanks for writing it. It’s too easy to feel guilty if you aren’t following someone else’s idea of the “writing rules”.

      Daily/weekly targets do help me not to slack off, but so does announcing my goals to the world.

      And yes, finishing what you start is the most powerful thing of all,

      • Ali Luke says:

        Thanks Julie. I think “writing rules” can be quite destructive to the creative spirit … I try to see them now as ideas to try out and to keep or discard depending on how I get on with them!

    • Great post Ali. Personally I have a technique which forces me into a routine. I am writing two novels. The first in traditional fashion, the other is playing out as a sort of ‘as it happens’ story. In practice that means that I am posting a section of the second novel on a regular basis (every friday) on my blog but I cannot think about it until thursday. By having a mandatory spine to the structure of my week I have to stop writing my novel in process and redirect my thinking to about Bernie and prepare his fictional blog. (You’ll have to look at the blog to see what I mean http://www.bernieokeefe.blogspot.com). I suppose I am writing following the Charles Dickens approach except I’m using a blog rather than the Penny Post for the weekly chapter.
      The point is that by having a distinct beginning and end to each working week I am forced to constantly reassess my progress on the first novel between blog posts and it provides me with some discipline in hitting targets.
      By the way, writing and plotting as you go is a good challenge and has also produced a lot of potential readers. I now have 4,300 followers and I have never done any publicity.
      Mind you, I have no idea how the bloody thing ends!

      • Ali Luke says:

        Thanks Thom … and what a great way to use the blogging format! And like you say, serial publication worked for Dickens… 🙂

        Sounds like you’ve built up a fantastic following too … and good luck working your way towards the ending. I’m sure you’ll figure it out!

    • About 1500 words per day is a little below average for me. There are days and weeks when I am prevented from writing at all or when I get blocked but 1,000 to 3,000 is a good number for me. What’s more difficult than getting word count is getting the motivation for it. I just have to sit down and open up the doc and start writing. Even a sentence can trigger creativity. I don’t use rituals or journaling (I wish!) to kick start me, I have to kick start my own butt, LOL!

      • Ali Luke says:

        PI, I find that just opening the document is a great way to overcome resistance! And we all occasionally need a firm kick to get going. 😉

    • I’m happy to see your comment on the fact that writing process more or less dictates how much is written. I think you hit the nail on the head with that, and that no author should be expected to produce some arbitrary amount of words per day/week/month. It all depends on the person doing the writing. Thanks!

      • Ali Luke says:

        Thanks Todd! We’re all different, and we all need to figure out what’s a comfortable routine for our own writing.

    • Personally, I write at least 500 words everyday. At first, it was difficult. But now that I’ve built a routine and gotten used to it, I can’t sleep unless I’ve reached my word count for the day.
      Some people feel that you shouldn’t write if you don’t feel up to it, lest you end up writing rubbish. I agree to a point. I don’t write publishable material if I don’t feel up to it. However, I still write SOMETHING, even if it’s just a journal entry or even a freewrite.

      • Ali Luke says:

        Thanks Kaamil; I think getting into a habit and writing *something* is a good plan. I’ve found that, for myself, I need to distinguish between the times when I really, truly, need a break and the times when I just feel a bit lazy about getting started..!

    • LK Watts says:

      This is a lovely post and it’s very refreshing to read. I’ve almost finished my second book which is a lot longer than the first, and yet it’s not taken me nearly as long to write it. But still, I sometimes worry that I should be churning out 5 books a year or something ridiculous like that.

      Some writers seem to stress that if you’re not working at speed, you won’t be successful. But as Dean Wesley Smith has pointed out, you’re not going to get all of your readers in the same time frame. Some will come days after your first release, others years. But as long as you keep releasing your books your audience will grow eventually. I know I’d rather take ten years to produce five quality books than five years producing ten poor quality ones.

      I really wish I could write faster without comprimising the quality of my work, and some people can, but I am not yet one of them. If you write a good book then it will sell, no matter what.

      • Ali Luke says:

        Thanks, LK, so glad you enjoyed this. I think speed is overrated (the tortoise & the hare come to mind…) Of course, some writers thrive on churning out thousands of words a day … but others write much less, and still do perfectly well.

        “Success” means different things to different people, too. I can see that fast writing might well lead to short term success (ie. money in the bank account faster!) — but it’s not always such a good idea in the long term.

    • I’ve suffered in the past from setting too-high daily word counts. When I repeatedly failed to achieve them, discouragement set in and I would often give up writing altogether, for weeks, months, or years in some cases. I still set targets, but they are kinder and more achievable now.

      • Ali Luke says:

        I think being kind to yourself is hugely important … writing isn’t something that you can whip yourself into doing! I got really discouraged as a younger writer when I repeatedly failed to hit 1000 words/day … it just wasn’t a realistic target at the time. 500/day or 30 minutes/day worked out much better for me.

    • Great post! I started blogging at a very early age of 12, and even though it was simply for personal use, I have already observed how I write. I noticed that I immediately write whatever is on my mind until there’s nothing left for me to say, before I edit the post. Word count didn’t really matter to me then, until I started freelancing last year, but blogging as a teen made me very conscious about the quality of my post’s content.

      While this might be a good thing, it has also led me to a struggle: once I started editing it, if I cut out too many words, I end up scrapping the whole post, and either I write a new one, or just forget about it and just write again the next day. This led me to posting at an inconsistent frequency, which I know is a no-no in blogging.

      Now, I’m trying to get over this struggle by editing my posts when I’m in a better mood. (I noticed that after writing a very long post, my mind is too tired to think. So I usually leave my draft alone for a few minutes or hours before getting back to it for editing.)

      • Ali Luke says:

        Thanks Nelle! You’re definitely doing the right thing by putting the post aside for some time (in fact, you might even want to try leaving it till the next day). I think we all sometimes have that sense of struggling with a piece of writing and eventually questioning its value … only to look at it a few hours/days later and seeing that it’s pretty good after all.

    • J.W. Alden says:

      I always aim for 1000 words. Sometimes the muse gives me a lot more, sometimes a lot less. But I do have a minimum amount of time I have to spend writing even when the words aren’t coming.

      Some humps are just harder to get over. A lot of times I feel more accomplished with a small amount of work if I know it was a chunk that I was really struggling with.

      • Ali Luke says:

        Good point about the tough bits, J.W.! I agree with you there — there are some pieces of writing that I’m proud of, even when they’re pretty short. (I attempted a poem during my MA in Creative Writing for instance — it wasn’t much in terms of word count, but it took *hours*..!)

    • Liz says:

      Great piece. Every writer needs this. Writing is a process that improves as you do it regularly. I always make it a point to write any piece of written work every day. I have no schedule and i don’t limit the number of words I write. Some days I can write 10 articles. Another day I can write only a paragraph and the next day I can write an article of only 400 words. I always make it a point to write with my mood because that is how i enjoy writing.

      • Ali Luke says:

        Thanks Liz! I think we all have an ebb and flow of writing energy — it’s great that you’re harnessing yours well. 🙂

    • Nancy Jurney says:

      I’m just wondering….how many people actually count the words they write each day? I don’t. I feel that counting the words would take too much away from my writing.

      • Ali Luke says:

        I usually track how many words I write on my novel (mostly because I like to tweet my word count — helps keep me motivated!)

        This is probably a personality thing: some people like to see the number going up, others (probably quite sensibly!) prefer to stay focused on the writing itself.

    • Wow. I really like the analogy of developing a writing habit to lifting weights. Start small. Then add more words. I very much need to get into a habit of writing daily, or almost-daily, and have so much resistance. I find it easy to work on my blogs but much harder to get around to the novel, which is the whole purpose of one of the blogs in the first place. Perhaps my initial goal is too lofty. Thanks for the great encouragement.

      • Ali Luke says:

        Donna, have you started on the novel yet? I always find that it’s REALLY hard to write the first few words … and the first few paragraphs … but by the time I’ve written a chapter or two, that resistance has almost gone. Though if I put it aside for too long, it can be almost as hard to get back into it again.

        You could try to write for just ten minutes a day on the novel (perhaps before you do the blogging) — and maybe see how that feels after a few days. Hopefully, you’ll be able to get into it and you’ll look forward to doing it, rather than struggling against resistance.

        Very best of luck!

        • Hi Ali! Thanks for the ideas. Yes, I’ve started and got 10,000 words into it then put it down for awhile. I’m really determined to get back going again, and I think, like you say, it will help to build those writing muscles slowly but surely. Yesterday I eeked out another 550 words, and it was hard. I think you are right that I need to work on the novel before blogging. Your post about why fiction writing is hard was really helpful too. You’ve got some great articles. I’m glad I found your site!

          • Ali Luke says:

            Sorry for the slow reply — lost yours amongst all the others! Hurrah on getting back into it, and well done on those 550 words … I hope you manage to get some more done, it honestly will get easier. And thanks for your kind words too — if there’s anything you ever want me to blog about in particular, just shoot me a line. 🙂

    • Thanks for you words of wisdom Ali. I’ve tried many different ways over many years – from the 50,000 words a month, Morning Pages, 1000 words a day etc. I go along okay for a while, then I hit a dip. The continual re-writing and editing on longer works is hardest for me. However, this year, I am feeling proud of myself because I have been writing one piece of prose poetry each week (I haven’t missed a week yet). I’ve been doing this for Creative Writing Ink where they run a little competition and give a book to the best one each month. I had to set up a wee blog just to publish the exercises on. It’s nice to know someone is reading what I write and I think this has inspired me. A couple of people even follow the blog – not that I want any followers, the purpose of the blog is just as venue for the work. Also, I won the book in January and this was incredibly encouraging – only a few people enter, but still I was over the moon. Also, finalising a small piece of work is encouraging . However, my other blog, hasn’t been receiving as much attention, same with the editing of a larger work.

      • Julie-Anne, I would love to read your blog. Could you share the link?

        Hugs,
        Lisa

        • Thanks Lisa – I think this link night work http://scaffoldoflove.wordpress.com/

          • Ali Luke says:

            Julie-Anne, good for you doing the exercises — I think building a weekly habit is a great idea. It’s easier to keep going when you’ve built up a string of successes! And huge congratulations on your win too. 😀

            With the blog and/or editing of the larger work, is there some way you can also work on them in a weekly way, or even set aside a weekend every month or similar? I know how tough it is to juggle multiple writing projects, though…!

    • Bill Polm says:

      More solid advice from Ali Luke. I write daily and I don’t worry about the number of words.
      Having 3 blogs and a novel WIP keeps me plenty active.
      As in life, good advice is, try not to worry about it!

      • Ali Luke says:

        Thanks Bill! And that is good advice (probably some that I should take on board more often…!)

    • Rick says:

      Great posting. As to how much I write every day- every minute I can steal!

      • Ali Luke says:

        Love it, Rick. 😀 Keep up the good work..!

    • This segment was interesting and I write daily about 1500 words apx.

    • I really enjoyed this post, because when you’re talking about creative process, it’s so very hard to say “should” and “should not” about just about anything. Everybody has their own way that works for them, though it can be interesting and enlightening (and sometimes successful!) to try out another way.

      • Ali Luke says:

        Thanks, Jennifer! I think experimenting is always good — I find that sometimes I like to work in marathon sessions (I almost forgot about dinner yesterday, rare for me..!) and sometimes I prefer shorter writing sessions on a more regular basis.

    • Joe says:

      When I was writing my novel, I wrote very fast, 1000-2000 words a day. And this was in the two hours a day that I actually had time to write. But, I finished the work and now I am revising and I don’t think I’ve really written anything for a while because I had major plot issues to figure out. Oh and character issues and so on.

      How do you handle this? I find rewriting is much slower and not always “writing”. Do others have this problem? Should I work on a new project while I rewrite?

      • Ali Luke says:

        I can tell you what works for me, Joe — your mileage may vary!

        Like you, I write fast when I draft fiction. And like you, I find I have major gaps once I’ve finished the first draft of a novel. (I cut a whole character, plus a bunch of scenes, from my novel Lycopolis…) The way I work is to print out my entire first draft and start again, rewriting every scene thoroughly and cutting out a bunch of stuff.

        This way, I *am* writing — I just have a skeleton novel in place to follow! Sometimes, a few sentences (particularly of dialogue) will make it intact from one draft to the next, but a LOT of the material changes. Some chapters end up in a different viewpoint, for instance, others get merged together…

        It’s probably not the most efficient method in the world, but it’s what works for me as a writer. And I actually enjoy the redrafting as much as the first draft, because it feels like it’s all coming together so much more neatly.

        • Joe says:

          Thanks for the reply. I am finding I have so far combined two characters, changed what I thought was the plot and formulated new scenes, all without really doing any real writing (note cards, some dialogue). Now I finally feel like I am ready for the rewrite.

          Thanks for your advice and experience. It is appreciated!

          Joe

    • When I’m in the middle of a major project I find I write more–I’m on fire with the work and thinking about it all the time and that gets me to sit and do the work.

      Rewriting can be harder to do, slower and more precise. The bottom line is sitting in the chair and doing the work. You cannot be a writer without that.

      • guest says:

        I go through different phases too, Beth; ups and downs of energy as a work progresses. (At the moment, I’m a bit obsessed with my novel-in-progress, somewhat at the expense of all the other writing I should be doing..!)

        At some stage, though, it’s always going to feel like hard work — and I agree with you that this is when the ability to sit there and get on with it pays off!

    • Sharon says:

      Great commentary.

      • guest says:

        Thanks, Sharon. 🙂

    • Thanks Ali…interesting topic. Writing for self; for personal expression is part of my daily writing. Then as part of my business I spend most of the day writting in some shape or form..whether its commenting on a blog:) updating and replying to tweets and other updates; writing emails; marketing programmes then the actual writing in writing a blog; research and publishing posts. So in a way it seems I spend most of day writing. For me my personal early morning journalling forms the core of my writing. Once I have done that then I feel ready to do more structured and focused writing for work. Take care.

      • guest says:

        Thanks Ntathu. And wow, that sounds like a ton of writing..! Good on you for giving your personal writing priority in your day. 🙂

    • Josh says:

      Personally I’m a fan of writing everyday, but setting a time limit for my writing. I’m all about quantity and going back to rewrite later. I’ll write for say 30-45 minutes at a time and then take a break. If I have more time, I’ll go back for another 30-45 minutes later. This gets rid of the perfectionist in me, and lets me get the story down before I destroy it in my own mind!

      Great Post.

      • guest says:

        Time limits work well for me too, especially if I’m struggling to focus! And I’m personally convinced that lots of the “real” work happens in breaks, too… 🙂

    • I’m thinking maybe a love for writing runs in the family?

      Great piece, Ali! Love your suggestions. 🙂

      • guest says:

        Thanks Lisa! I don’t think I’ve met any Lukes other than my husband’s family… lovely to find someone else bearing the name too. 🙂


    • e3941297e17226345b367b4f61e62e3e98e44947f806b5be70
      >