Friday, October 7, 2016

On Word Targets

It's the strangest thing how psychological this writing game is. 

People (and by this, I mean non-writers) always assume that writing is such an easy thing. After all, they write hundreds of words every day with e-mails and texts, right? 

Sure. The thing is... It's easy to just jot a few words with no particular word-count goal in mind. Ten words here. Twenty words there. 


But get told to write a 1500 word article. Or a 3000 word to 6000 word short story. Or just think and realize that the novel you're working on needs 150,000 words to get finished. 

Suddenly, a task that seems simple becomes much more complicated. Especially when you're starting out and wondering if the thing you're writing will actually hit the word-count target. 

Last night, I wrote an article, and about 700 words in, I couldn't imagine where I would find the remaining 800. 

When I started drafting my story for the Insecure Writer's Support Group competition, I liked the idea, but I just felt like the word-limit was this insurmountable mountain to climb. 

Odd to think it, but I find the 150k goal less intimidating, because if I come in under that, it's not like there will be repercussions. And that is actually the reason why I don't like setting a target for the length of any story I write. It just adds extra pressure I don't like feeling. I mean, I already give myself some steep deadlines to chase. 

The challenge is good for me, though. It's nice to know that, yes, I could actually write to demand and actually hit those targets. 

And you know the funny thing about my short story? I'm at 3500 words now, and wondering if I'll be able to wrap the story up in 1500 words or less. 

So that just goes to show you the importance of just writing. Even if we feel like we'll never make a word-count target, we can always surprise ourselves if we try. 

Are you writing a story for IWSG competition? How's it going?


  1. I struggle to write on demand - especially with a word count. I guess the more you do it, the easier it becomes :-)

  2. Fortunately you have a wider range for that story now - 3000-6000 words.
    I just pray I can push a story over 75,000 words.

  3. I started one the other day. I think I am half-way there. So far, I'm liking it. I'll leave the real test to the judges. You can do it! I thought I'd never hit the mark, but as I near the finish, I keep thinking of little things I need to add here and there that will push me well into the word count mark.

  4. My experience as a newspaper reporter taught me to write quickly and meet a deadline. That doesn't mean I can do the same with fiction.


  5. That shows what I've always said - the right targets, used in the right way at the right time, can motivate. But pick a target that's not right for you - that can kill motivation. They're slippery buggers and need to be treated with caution.

    I've found it helpful to have a word count progress target to keep me moving when drafting a novel. I'm confident the overall word count will land wherever it needs to but I just want to get past (say) the 90k mark and I know I'll be near the end. That ends up being a marathon rather than a sprint of maybe 500 words a day. I love seeing my graph inch upwards day by day and the pull of that graph will bring me back when I'm not feeling like it, even if it's only to add 200 words today and I'll make up for it tomorrow.


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