Setting Targets

All through my career I’ve written 1,000 words a day – even if I’ve got a hangover. You’ve got to discipline yourself if you are a professional.
– JG Ballard

One of the most common pieces of advice that successful authors give to aspiring writers is to develop the habit of writing by setting a goal of words to write per day. The actual quantity is pretty much irrelevant, I’ve seen authors who aim for 300 and those who aim for 2,500; the important thing is to develop your discipline. Writing may well be your passion but if you also want to make it your career then you need to develop a structure to your approach and what better for a writer than to get some stuff written?

It may be helpful to think about what particular word counts look like to help yourself get a feel for what you can do in the time available. This blog is 367 words long. The average printed paperback fiction book has about 310 words per page. On my Kindle, it’s about 230 words per page. Or to look at it another way, if you write 300 words a day you should have enough for your book within a year. Exciting thought?

You will know your own time constraints better than anybody else, so I’m not going to try to suggest what you should aim for – all I will say is to be realistic. If you have 30 minutes a day set aside to write then don’t try to get 1,000 words done when working on your first book, setting yourself up to fail is very demoralising. On the other hand, if you have the luxury of a couple of hours available then 1,000 words may well be achievable, but if you find that amount intimidating then aim for less. There is also absolutely no reason you can’t increase or decrease your daily target if you regularly undershoot it or exceed it.

One of the wonderful things about this whole process is that you are in charge so the goals are your own. Well, until you are writing to a deadline from your publisher, which is wonderful in a totally different way.


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