Optimal Daily Word Count

I reread Mek’s fascinating post on the optimal daily word count. It’s more pointed to prose writers, but relevant to poets, too.

Work in Progress

photo of a stack of magnetic poetry words to illustrate story on optimal daily word quota for a writer Photo by Steve Johnson

The habits of famous writers are a source of fascination and perhaps inspiration for book lovers and aspiring writers: aesthetics of their writing retreat; curios in their space; rituals performed before sitting down to work; writing tools; and, perhaps ‘easiest’ for the aspiring writer to replicate: their daily word quota.

Should we follow Michael Crichton’s gruelling 10,000 words per day, or keep it easy breezy at Ernest Hemingway’s 500?

To answer this question, I looked at available data on 39 famous writers and drew inferences on:

– Relationship between daily word quota and rewards

– Gender influence on daily word quota and rewards

– Perceived value of effort and output, and its influence on the writer’s psyche

– Optimal daily word count

View original post 1,790 more words

26 thoughts on “Optimal Daily Word Count

  1. As a poet and a prose writer, this and the link to the original post was informative! 1000-1400 words per day (on average) a sweet spot? Also interesting was the effort/reward/satisfaction discussion in the original post. Robert – thanks for sharing the information!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks so much for re-reading Bob, considering one time around is already time consuming. I appreciate the reblog too! I loved the discussions with yourself and many others in the comments of that post.

    Many months after writing on the topic, I can say I’ve discovered the fall out of an overly regimented daily word count. Over nov 2016 I stuck to approximately 1700 words per day to ‘win’ NaNoWriMo…never again!

    I did got my mojo back in the last couple of days after a bit of a hiatus, just waiting for the time to type and edit what I’ve written…

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  3. There is a good bit NOT included in the analysis … such as time spent promoting/submitting, research, editing. Analysis of hours spent writing words would be more interesting to me than this take on daily word counts. And whether writing is longhand or computerized or dictated (and how transcribed if not initially done via keyboard). While this analysis fascinates – invites questions – I don’t think I’ll start tracking daily word counts anytime soon!

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    • I think a daily word count is a commonly used barometer, hence the focus on it. Even though I enjoy statistics and “measuring” ROI and such, I can’t do it for poetry, at least not in terms of daily output. Unfortunately, I seem to spend as much time on the administrative work of poetry (submitting, correspondence, blogging, etc.) as I do on the writing of it. My stats are more likely to be based on monthly figures – number of poems completed, submissions and acceptances – which in the end doesn’t tell me much, except that I’m a tad obsessive in nature. 😬

      Liked by 1 person

    • There is so much that could have been included, but unfortunately, limited by available data. I think daily word counts rather than time spent writing is a good measure because it makes for a clearer comparison between writers. As David W Jones says in another comment here, Hemingway could spend all day picking just one word…that’d be a lot of hours compared with another author who may have the discipline to sit and write for an hour a day and allow the words to flow rather than waiting for the perfect word. Ultimately, it comes down to individual preferences, but I thought it interesting to delve into the habits of successful writers and make the correlation with word count.

      Liked by 1 person

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