Word Count Goals of the Rich & Famous

Here’s a nifty little article I found on a blog called Writers Write that details the writing habits, and more specifically, the word count goals of 39 famous authors. The article is called The Daily Word Counts of 39 Famous Authors, and it features big names like Stephen King, Anne Rice, and Mark Twain. It’s an interesting read, and I’m always fascinated by the routines of well-known authors, since it can vary a whole lot.

Go read the article, and if you dig it, throw the author a like or a Facebook or Twitter share. In the meantime, here are some things I took away from it:

  1. There’s no such thing as a “normal” routine for a professional writer. It’s a very specific, individual affair, and one man’s normal is another’s bat-shit crazy. (Yeah, I’m lookin’ at you R. F. Delderfield and your 10,000 words a day.)
  2. So, of course, I took an average of the word counts in the article. Throwing out the outliers, we get a rough average of 1,800 words per day. That’s lower than I would have guessed before reading the article, but it’s solid output, especially if you’re writing fulltime, five days a week. That’d be 9,000 words a week, 36,000 words a month, and a fairly staggering 468,000 words per year. Yeah, I know, most folks don’t write everyday, but even at half that number, you’re finishing two full-length novels or a metric fuck ton of short stories.
  3. You don’t have to write thousands of words per day to be successful. Yep, Ernest Hemingway wrote 500 words a day; that’s it. I think the key is consistency, and 500 words a day add up fast, especially if those words are as good as Mr. Hemingway’s.

To put my own spin on it, my goal is a minimum of 2,000 words a day, same as one of my favorite writers, Stephen King. Since I started doing this full time in June, I’ve been pretty consistent, enough to finish one novel, a good portion of a second, and a bunch of short stories and articles.

Do you have a daily word count goal? If so, which writer’s routine from the article does yours most resemble?

14 Comments on “Word Count Goals of the Rich & Famous

  1. I found that article earlier in the year and set a 500 word a day goal for June. It was the first time I’d done something like that. After that, I switched to a daily time goal (45 – 60 minutes), because at the end of June I had a lot of words, but they weren’t fit for public consumption. Research and editing count toward writing time.

    Here’s to a productive 2016 🙂

    • Yeah, the article has made the rounds a bit, but it somehow escaped my notice until recently. Certainly, word count goals aren’t the only way to get things done, and, like you, there lots of folks who prefer a time goal rather than a word count goal.

      Yep, let’s get lots more words in 2016. 😉

      • I’m going to try something different for Jan. An hour a day, but 1000 new words toward a novel per week. I figure I’ll still have time to write and submit short stories, but at the end of the year, I’ll at least have a good chunk of a novel.

        Of course, saying this is easy. Doing it… 😉

  2. Metric fuck ton. HAHAHAHA. You crack me up, man.

    I’ve never compared my daily word count to anyone else’s, but I’m happy to share it with you and your lovely Rejectomancists (Rejectomantors?). When I’m steaming like Tugboat Willy, I crank out 3,000 words, and that’s editing as I go because I’m anal. When not steaming, I feel good if I end the day with 1,000 words. That’s for the novels. For the flash and short stories, 2015 taught me that if I don’t finish up a short piece a few hours after I’ve started it, I probably won’t finish it at all.

    BTW, I’m listening to King’s FINDERS KEEPERS as I get the fixings ready for tonight’s Swiss fondue and I’ve set myself a new goal: If, by the end of my life (which is unfortunately more than half over), I can write ONE single page of words that I think are as good as my buddy SK’s, I will die a happy woman.

    Here’s to a 2016 filled with publications and book deals and champagne for when they happen, dry-as-a-bone martinis for when they don’t.

    I’m glad to know you, friend.

    • Well, I have readers in Canada and the UK, so I gotta use the metric system or they won’t understand. 😉

      Yeah, it seems most authors are in that 1,000 to 3,000 words range. Again, I think it’s about consistency. If you’re writing 250 words a day, but you’re doing it every single day, you’ll get a lot done.

      Yep, let’s have a hell of a 2016, and a big thank you to you and all the other awesome folks who have made running this blog so much goddamn fun.

  3. Aeryn,

    Great stuff. Thanks for sharing.

    I used to figure about 1,000 was a good day. Now, I feel a good day is from 1,000 to 2,000. I usually end up writing less than 1,500. I feel the intensity of a scene or action will cause the word count to go up. While bridging sections tend to have lower words counts. That’s how it usually goes with me.


    • Hi, Darius. I’m the same way with action vs. bridge material. I can pound out a couple of thousand words in a few hours when I’m writing action, but it might take me four hours or more to hit the same word count with a less-intense scene.

  4. My minimum word count per day is similar to a lot of those authors… around 1000 per day. Sometimes I’ll be really excited about something evil I’m doing to a character and reach 2000 or 3000 words in one day.

    Some days, when I know I can’t write the next day, I’ll go over my minimum so I don’t feel guilty. Word counts are so hard to abide by… but, despite that, I’ve managed to write around 27,800 words since the 17th of December. But that’s because it’s the school holidays, and I have way too much time on my hands 😉

    Sometimes I feel discouraged about getting to my minimum word count. The encouragement of fellow bloggers on WordPress helps me push through 🙂

    • Yeah, I’m a big fan of “banking” words over my minimum daily goal. That way if I need to take a day off or something, I don’t feel like I’m falling behind.

  5. I’ve never set daily word-count goals. I much prefer completed-projects goals. For example, my goal each year for the past several years is to produce 52 finished and submittable short stories (an average of one per week). Some years I meet or exceed my goal; some years I don’t.

    This year I didn’t, completing only 41 short stories (and not finishing the last one until 7:30 p.m. New Year’s Eve!). That works out to 153,000 words of submittable fiction, or approximately 419 words per day.

    But I know I wrote much more than that because I’m not counting the work I did on incomplete projects or all the freelance non-fiction, advertising, and public relations writing I did that helps keep the lights on so that I can write fiction.

    • I really like that. With the novels I’m scheduled to write this year, I don’t think I could pull off one story a week, but one a month feels doable. I think I’ll add that to my list of goals and whatnot for 2016. Thanks for the idea. 😉

      If you don’t mind me asking, how many of the 41 stories you wrote this year did you publish?

      • Given the length of time some publications take to respond to submissions and that some stories go out and back more times than I like to admit, there isn’t a direct correlation between how many stories I write in a year and how many are accepted for publication.

        On the other hand, I wrote 41 stories in 2015 and I had 41 stories accepted for publication in 2015 (39 originals, 2 reprints). These are spread across multiple genres (primarily crime fiction and women’s fiction, with a couple of pieces of erotica and one weird menace story), multiple types of publications (anthologies, periodicals, and webzines), and pay rates (from why’d-I-bother to this’ll-make-the-car-payment).

      • Well, 41 stories written against 41 stories published (even if they’re not the same stories) is a ratio I could live with. 😉

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