The Journal: More on Word-Count Goals (a process post)

In today’s Journal

* Quote of the Day
* Topic: More on Word-Count Goals (a process post)
* Today
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quote of the Day

“If you’re not productive in this new world, you’re done. You’re just done.” Dean Wesley Smith

Topic: More on Word-Count Goals (a process post)

I had a few questions about this, so I thought I’d revisit it.

My daily word count goal is 3000 words per day beginning on January 1. Yesterday, I practiced. I started a short story that didn’t pan out, and I missed my goal. In fact, I wrote only a little over 1000 words. Shrug. No biggie. The goal resets this morning. (More on this later.)

But why did I pick 3000 words per day?

Some of you will remember, not too long ago I set a daily goal of 1000 words per day. Then I further buffered it by saying that was my goal “on days when I write.”

Frankly, for me personally, that goal was a joke. Been there, done way more than that. In setting that goal, I wasn’t living up to my ability, much less stretching myself.

What was I thinking?

Well, I was thinking that any goal was better than no goal. But I erased that when I added “on days when I write.” That was directly from the critical mind.

Hitting 1000 words in a day is massively easy for me. It’s an hour or less of writing, period, as long as I get out of my own way. It’s a snail’s pace of 17 words per minute. Many who have families and jobs, etc. routinely hit far more than 1000 words per day.

So a few days ago, I checked in with myself, thought about all of that, and figured out some things.

While writing my most recent novel (in 19 writing days and 25 calendar days), I wrote just short of 3000 words on two days and exceeded 3000 words on five days. On two of those five, I wrote almost 6000 words. All while I had a 1000 words-per-day goal.

Okay, so a 1000 words-per-day goal is just silly for me.

Back when I was first starting out and trying to make myself a professional), I set a solid goal of 3000 words per day. And it worked.

A few years later, because I haughtily thought I was beyond the need for word-count goals, I dropped them altogether. And my production suffered. (How I wish someone had called me on that!)

Yes, I still wrote several novels per year, but almost no short stories. By dropping my word-count goal, I made it too easy to just go do something else.

So now I’m re-instituting my 3000 words-per-day goal, and I’ll stick to it. I’m sure I’ll miss on some days, but not most.

Here’s why (and this is the essence of this topic):

  1. When I know my daily goal is 3000 words every day (on average), it pushes me to the computer.
  2. But more importantly, it also pushes me to Keep Coming Back. Even on days when I have other things that I have to do (like today, laundry), that goal in the back of my mind won’t let me slack off.
  3. By contrast, when my daily goal was only 1000 words, it actually dragged me down. If I didn’t hit 1000 words that was fine because it reset the next day. And that was only on “days when I write.” Rubbish.
  4. What’s worse, that small goal set a dangerous precedent. When I reached my 1000 words for the day, it was okay for me to stop writing. In short, it was a false achievement that harmed my production. (See the Quote of the Day above.)

Let’s look at some math.

Like everyone else, I have 24 hours in every day. Minus my sleep time, I have 16 to 18 hours every day.

So with a 3000 word goal, I have to find 3 hours out of that 16- to 18-hour period to write.

To further stretch myself (and drive myself to the computer, and exercise my story-idea brain) I also set weekly and monthly goals. I talked about those here several days ago: one short story per week by Saturday midnight and one novel per month by midnight on the last day of the month.

Can I do that? Honestly, I don’t see why not.

To carry forward the time factor, even going with the smallest number of hours I have available every day (16), that’s 112 hours per week and 480 hours per 30-day month.

A novel takes 40 to 100 hours to write. And writing four short stories per month takes 3 to 5 hours per story, so 12 to 20 hours per month.

So even a longer novel and longer short stories add up to 120 hours per month — out of 480 total hours when I’m not asleep.

So that’s why I set such seemingly “lofty” goals. When you look at the math, they aren’t all that lofty. Especially if I’m hitting around 3000 words per day. See?

I welcome any other questions. When you ask me questions, we both learn.

One caveat — if writing 1000 words per day for you stretches you and makes you reach, that’s fine. In most cases, any goal really is better than no goal. Just don’t buffer it with “on days when I write.” Science Fiction Grand Master Fred Pohl wrote 1000 words per day, every day, before he allowed himself to do anything else. In the words of DWS, “maybe that’s why he was a grand master.”

So the bottom line, as always, is do what’s right for you. And most of all Have Fun and enjoy the process. (grin)

Today, as the year draws to a close, I’ll practice writing again. And practice reaching for 3000 words. I might make it, and I might not. With any luck I’ll have a good novel start or a good short story before the sun goes down.

Either way, I hope it’s a great day for you and that you’ve set your writing goals and other resolutions for what you want to achieve in the weeks, months, year, and years ahead.

Happy new year’s eve, and happy new year.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “Do You Want to Be an Apex Writer?” at (To apply, send “Apex” to An opportunity.

See “Family Annihilators + A Look Back at 2019” at

See “David Maurer, the Dean of Criminal Language” at Great article, and at the end is “A Glossary of Essential Maurer Slang.”

See “The Exclamation Point: It’s More Than Punctuation” at

See “What WMG Publishing Did” at

See “Night Visions” at

See “Garrison Keillor” at

The Numbers

Fiction words (see specific numbers below)
Nonfiction words today…………… 1090 (Journal)

Writing of Distant Worlds (short story)

Day 1…… 1088 words. Total words to date…… 1088 (nah, fell off)

Total fiction words for the month……… 52084
Total fiction words for the year………… 449649
Total nonfiction words for the month… 21570
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 324830
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 774479

Calendar Year 2019 Novels to Date…………………… 10
Calendar Year 2019 Novellas to Date……………… 1
Calendar Year 2019 Short Stories to Date… 4
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 44
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 197
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

Total fiction words since April 15 2014: 3,078,371

Total fiction and nonfiction since January 1 2015: 3,911,628

2 thoughts on “The Journal: More on Word-Count Goals (a process post)”

  1. I’ve had the same realization these last few months, that although I like the notion of a leisurely writer life, I suck at self-motivation and if I don’t have a lofty goal, I get very little done. ;D So it’s back to the word count goals for myself.

    I admit, I set a goal that is far out of my reach, but that’s because I need it if I’m ever going to break the glass ceiling that seems to be over my head.

    Good luck!

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