While readers think about books in terms of page count, writers need to think about their books in terms of word count. At first glance, they may seem synonymous, but word count is a universal standard that publishers and agents consider when reviewing your manuscript.
The reason writers need to think in word count, instead of page count, is because page count will vary by region and edition. The eBook version will have a different page count than the “standard” paperback than the hardcover. And even more differences emerge when you start publishing in other forms, like mass-market paperbacks.
And if we’re really diving in, eBooks can be wackier, because readers can adjust the font size and the eBook version automatically adjusts depending on which mobile device or tablet the reader is using.
In short, that’s why word count goals are so important.
Create Realistic Word Count Goals
When you break it down, creating realistic goals is actually very easy. But that’s the thing. They have to be realistic to you—not realistic to the full-time author down the street. YOU are the most important piece of the goal-setting equation and never forget that.
Writer, you need to create realistic goals for you. Meaning, if you know you only have one two-hour writing session every week, don’t make a 10,000 word goal and expect to hit that goal week after week. You may occasionally, but it’s not sustainable.
Instead of focusing on finishing the entire book, just focus on writing the next chapter.
If you’re a new writer, start small. When I first started writing, I made a goal to write 500 words five days a week, on average. If I hit it—great. If I didn’t—I didn’t stress. Within the first year, that 500 word goal turned into a 2,000 word goal. The more you write, the more you can write.
The important thing to remember is that everyone starts somewhere. Don’t get too discouraged by the numbers. That example is just me, and I’m not you. You need to craft unique goals that suit you and that cater to your availability and experience.
What Does “Realistic” Word Count Mean to You?
There’s no magic formula to what “realistic” should mean to you, but there are a few things you should consider when figuring out what “realistic” means to you:
The Time Factor
Once you’ve created your writing schedule—and learned how to protect your writing time—you will know how much time you have to dedicate to your writing sessions. Whether that’s one session per week or several, knowing how much time you have dedicated to writing is the first step.
The Experience Factor
The second thing you need to consider is your writing experience and how many words you have averaged in the past. Is this the first book you’ve tried writing? Or have you been writing for several years? Knowing these things will help you home in on your ideal word count.
Crafting Your Unique Word Count Goal
Using the two factors above, you can come to a reasonable conclusion as to what “realistic” means to you.
But… It’s important to remember that many great writers still have low word count goals. Anne Rice has been quoted that she writers about 3,000 words per day, while others say their goal is closer to 500. Many writers and bloggers average around 1,000 words.
If you still don’t know, start small. I started with 500 words, and I think that’s a great goal. Plan to write 500 words however many days per week and see how that goes. If the week passes and you feel good, raise the bar.
If you weren’t able to hit your goal, but you still sat down when you said you would, lower the goal. It’s not the word count that’s important. It’s the consistent writing and consistently hitting your goals until the first draft is finished.
No matter what you choose as your word count goal, it’s important to stick to your goals. It’s important to put your butt in the chair and write. After all, writers write. Not every day. But they write.