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Word Count Quotas vs. Dedicated Writing Time

Lately, I’ve been testing out two methods of making myself more productive.  I’ve been struggling with ways to help myself succeed and beat my word count each day.

Here’s what I’ve discovered as I’ve been working my current novel-in-progress.

There are two main methods of measuring progress:  word count quotas, and dedicated writing time.

Word count quotas:

Benefits:

  • Easier to plan when your work will be complete
  • Psychological boost when you beat your quota significantly
  • Easy to measure whether you’re on track with your goals
  • Others can measure whether you’ve met your goal for the day–and help urge you on

Disadvantages:

  • When you’re struggling, it can take a significant amount of time to hit your quota
  • This doesn’t take into account editing/rewriting time
  • Word counts don’t take into account the quality of your writing.  Anyone can write 500 words, but making those 500 words fit into a larger manuscript or article can take much more time.

Dedicated writing time:

Benefits:

  • Fixed time box, so you limit how much time you are required to work
  • If you’re struggling, once the time has finished, you can stop guilt free
  • Allows you room to edit your work, take out scenes, or add in new ones
  • Writing at the same time every day helps you develop writing as a habit

Disadvantages:

  • Harder to plan when a work will be complete
  • If you’re on a roll, you may not have enough flexibility to continue working beyond your dedicated writing time

My take:

Ultimately, I’ve decided to go with a blend of dedicated writing time and word count quotas, with a slight twist.

I focus on writing scenes instead of purely using word count quotas, and try to dedicate time from 10pm-12am to focus only on writing.  This allows me to avoid the trap of only paying attention to the number of words I write, while still helping myself to continue making progress every day.  Using a scene as a measurement helps me to avoid checking my word count every few minutes, and focus on writing usable prose.

Since switching over to this blended method, I’ve found that I can easily hit my quota of 500 words a day, often doubling that number.  With a little luck and continued dedication, my first draft of this novel will be done in about 2 months.

What do you think?  What has worked for you?  What methods do you use to help yourself make more progress every day?

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5 Responses to “Word Count Quotas vs. Dedicated Writing Time”

  1. Jason says:

    I do a blend. Dedicated time on a daily basis, and I keep a word count target spreadsheet that let’s me know if I am running more or less on schedule.

    If I’m getting behind, I can plan extra time. And, it’s fun to try and get ahead so I can earn myself a day off now and then.

  2. Jason says:

    Also, I should add: word count goal is only useful on the first draft, for me. After that, I go by chapters.

  3. TheBartender says:

    I agree. I also keep a word count target spreadsheet (currently sitting several thousand words behind due to some unexpected personal situations in the past couple of months), but I’m catching back up.

    It’s also amazing how ornery I can get if I miss my writing time. I don’t like to miss it for any reason, even a good one, since I know it’s going to put me behind.

  4. TheBartender says:

    Good point, Jason. This article didn’t state it explicitly, but this referred to my current novel-in-progress, which is in its first draft.

    I expect that, after the first draft is complete, I’ll switch over to just dedicated writing time, going through my long (and growing) list of things I want to change and/or add details on in my next draft.

  5. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by WritAnon, WritAnon. WritAnon said: Word Count Quotas vs. Dedicated Writing Time – what's your experience? http://bit.ly/bMYNgo […]

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