Word count goals

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From thermometertemplate.com. Seriously!

I’m totally not the kind of writer who does word count goals. Some writers find them very motivating – so many that they seem ubiquitous, and a common question directed at any writer is, “How many words do you write a day?”

Somewhere on this blog I’ve discussed the project I once worked on, where I pushed myself to hold to a loose word count goal, totally ignoring how much the work sucked. Only when I’d reached about 30,000 words did I admit to myself how poorly it was going, how I’d written myself into corners I couldn’t get out of, and how little I liked the story or its characters. It was painful to throw out 30,000 words, and it was because I was doggedly clinging to the idea that to be a real writer, you have to write every day whether you feel like it or not, and you have to meet word count goals.

I’ve started a new project, something that’s been banging around my head for a while, waiting for me to finish other things. I actually started a draft of it a few months ago, pushing myself to put down words, until once again I realized that I didn’t much like the story in this form, and I didn’t care for the characters, either. (I threw out far fewer than 30,000 words, which was much easier.)

This time I’m taking a different approach. I don’t have any deadlines with this project, not even self-imposed ones, so I’ve given myself permission to work slowly. This morning I wrote two paragraphs. I wasn’t just twiddling my thumbs in between typing a few words at a time – these paragraphs had a lot of information stuffed into them, and required a good deal of research and note taking. But I didn’t push myself to write more, forcing myself to cut corners and missing things I should take care of, to meet an artificial goal at the expense of doing what I needed to do for the story.

Here’s the take-away: no one writing style is right for everyone. No one writing style is right for every project. Funny how we have to keep reminding ourselves things that we should already know, but sometimes we do. Don’t hamper yourself with artificial rules. Do what you need to do for the project.

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