After using a scientific method to calculate the optimal daily word target which I should be aiming for, I’m now challenged but happy. It’s called trial and error, and it’s taken two novels to work out, but now finally I feel as though I’ve nailed it.
Some writers apparently write without a target and just let it flow but this never worked for me. I was perpetually stressed about not writing enough. I never felt creative because I was always worried about how many words I’d used. I was starting to write things in as many words as possible, just to extend the word count. Obviously, this is not recommended.
Once you realise that you need a word target, you then need to select the optimal amount of words per day. This again can be hard to do. It depends so much on personal writing styles. If you’re a fast writer and you just blitz a first draft out, then you’d want a higher word target than someone who writes methodically.
I started far too high. I was eager to get it done and chose more words a day, so that I’d reach the end quicker. This doesn’t work. I started on 5,000 words a day and was miserable every day with my lack of effort. Needless to say, I didn’t stick to the target and it fell by the way side.
Next up was 3,000 words. I’d written a novel by then and knew a bit more about what was realistic. I would stick to this sometimes but then life would get in the way and I’d miss a few days. Result: more miserable days than content ones.
Eventually, I’ve landed on 2,000 words a day. This works perfectly for me. It’s enough to leave a sizeable indent every day in the manuscript but it’s small enough to provide flexibility and ultimately, achievability. I’ve also extended this target so that actually the target is 10,000 words a week, which means I can absorb life’s little quirks that crop up and still stay on track.
I’ll talk about the Progress Principle in more detail on another post, but the theory states that the more progress you can visibly make towards a goal the more motivated you are. It’s important that you don’t restrict your creativity with an unrealistic target.
So, once you have the target, this is where Scrivener’s beautifully simple Word Target Display comes in. When you’re in your manuscript in Scrivener, go to Project/Show Project Targets. A little box will appear with Manuscript Target and Session Target. You can configure the amount of words and all sorts of other options. The other neat thing you can do in Scrivener is when you use the Full Screen Composition Mode, the target comment box still appears which means you can have no interruptions and can still keep an eye on your target.
I’m a stickler for the target, so once I’ve hit it I pretty much finish within 10-20 words. If you’re mid-flow then it just means that you’ve got an easy start the next day… and who doesn’t love an easy start.
Until next time…