Why writers daily word count doesn’t matter

Recently I read that Ernest Hemmingway had a daily word count of 500 words come hell or high water. 500 words per day? That can be done before the morning cup of coffee or tea is gone. I seriously doubt he stopped after 500 words, for to do so is to waste a good days work.

When I was in college  I read Johann Goethe would write one page per day. He said the key was to write the perfect page, to rewrite the page over and over until he had everything the way he wanted. Then he never looked at it again. Perhaps for Hemmingway he would write the 500 words then rewrite until it was what he wanted, what he thought was perfect.

Every writer has either a daily word count goal or a set time for writing, say four hours, approaching writing like a job. Whether writing fiction is a job or a hobby there is a structure, a goal, something that frames how and what you write. But in the end word count does not matter, nor how many hours you wish to devote daily to writing.

What matters is how Goethe approached the day. It is rewriting, and that means his goal was quality. I hear of writers who claim to write 5,000 words per day. How wonderful. But quantity does not equal quality. A trained monkey could write 5,000 words, but only taking banana breaks, and generally monkeying around. But those 5,000 words may not engage the reader.

The point of fiction writing is to tell a story, to take the reader to another place, to engage with a good story and interesting characters, to make the reader laugh, to feel, to think, and the number of words is irrelevant. A writer either writes quality or  he or she doesn’t.

As Hamlet said, “There’s the rub.”  A readers preference, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. There are popular writers I find boring and relativity unknown writers I enjoy. So what is quality? An English professor will give you one idea, a literature professor may give you another, a critic may give a third, but if a reader likes your story, whether others find little quality in your work, that one reader makes it worthwhile.

So my daily goal is not in words, not in time, but in getting the sentences how I want, to get the scene how I want. And hope for the best

If you car to judge my quality my amazon page for my e-books are here: http://www.amazon.com/Terry-Nelson/e/B00EEVHN38



Filed under dalies, e-book publishing, Uncategorized, writing

3 responses to “Why writers daily word count doesn’t matter

  1. I totally agree with you. I just started back on my writing adventure with my novel after a year hiatus. I started writing one hour a day. I have handled it this week and usually go over, so I will be expanding to 2 hours a day next week. I think its important for each writer to make their own schedule rules based on their lifestyle, etc. Thanks for the great post!


  2. In deed, this is a great post, butI got a question: how does a writer really know when to stop the writing? Before my physical fall & fracture my left leg, 18 days ago, my wcg had been between 400 to 500 words a day. IMHO, not a bad amount, and for me accomplishable. Now, it’s a large zero; lying in bed is severely not fun!!


    • You’re right lying in bed is not fun, at least not with broken leg; maybe with a lovely lady-for me would be good. Seriously in the old days we had to write with pen and paper. I always used the yellow legal pad and black ink pen. Whatever happens I hope you get back to writing soon.


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