Target Word Count

Target Word Count: Screen capture of word meter and deadlines in Scrivener's Project Target window.

My Very Unhappy Wordmeter in Scrivener

This week my accountability group’s How I Write series asks, “When you’re writing, do you have a wordcount in mind that you HAVE to stick to? What’s your happy WIP word zone? If you don’t have enough, do you try to add more to reach it?”

I’m going to tackle this week’s question two different ways. First, I’m going to look at the smaller scale: the daily (or weekly) targets. Then, I’ll talk about what this means in terms of a full manuscript. I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t like small stories. I’m not sure how well, I’m doing at writing bigger ones, but I can’t seem to write super short. I know what I want to write and I know I need to stretch to make it there both in terms of holding a coherent story together that big and finding the time and energy to put toward writing that kind of story on an on-going basis.

Daily Target Word Counts

Number in Mind

This number has radically changed for since I began writing. In the beginning, when I was eager and didn’t know any better, I could sit down and rattle off 600-800 words in a 20 minute sprint and I could do a couple of hours at that pace. These days, I got tired just typing that sentence. My ideal daily target work count would be to get a scene or two done each day, which has been averaging around 1500-1600 words.

Happy Word Zone

So this has shifted for me in a not so positive direction lately. Some days I’m lucky to get 100 words down on the page. Others, I’ve done 2,000+, well over the target word count. I can’t seem to find the groove again.

Coming Up Short

I’ve been known to go back and add stuff, but on a first draft, I don’t try to do it too much. I know there are several places where I will be required to go back and add layers in later drafts, so coming under by a bit isn’t too horrible a feeling for me to leave with. It also tends to average out in the end.

WIP/MS Target Word Counts

Number in Mind

Like I said, I like big stories. I’m not sure I can write to novella or category length right now. That said, some of my first drafts have fallen far short of my target word counts. This usually tells me I’m missing part of the story and to go back to the drawing board. I really want to write single-title historical romances which tend to have target word counts of at least 90,000 words or somewhere around 360-400 pages.

Happy Word Zone

I don’t know what my eventual sweet spot will be, but my complete rough draft is about 72k. I’m sure there’s stuff I need to add. The two that I feel are nowhere near finished clock in around 36-42k words. My current project is sitting stalled at 25k, but is just a bit over 25% of that with 1/4 of the outline drafted.

Coming Up Short

I usually feel that description and emotion are the two places that I tend to run short on. I was talking with my husband about this not too long ago (he’s a writer too) and he asked if I saw the movie of the book playing in my head. What I get is often more like a radio play. I get dialogue and sounds. In the first draft or so, I tend to use body language that’s boring, obvious and more of a place holder to remind me of the emotional tone of the scene as I dictate it.

YOUR TURN: What length stories do you prefer to read or write? Why?


And if you’d like to check out the rest of my accountability group, you can find their blogs here:

* Alexia Reed * Kimberly Farris * Danie Ford * Emma G. Delaney * Susan Saxx *

Leave a Reply