The Pros and Cons of Word Count Goals
Those of you who have been with me for a while already know that I’m an active Nanowrimo participant and advocate. I’ve participated in Nanowrimo six times, and the event has really changed my life. I wrote my first first first draft of a novel during Nanowrimo when I was eleven. It gave me confidence that yes, I could write a novel, and yes, I could finish a novel. I went out to events with my mother, who’s also participated a few times, and I made lots of friends. I’ve written up to 300, 000 words in the month of November. And I’ve always had fun.
I’ve also attempted Nanowriye three or four times, and this summer I signed up for CampNanowrimo. But I’ve discovered that word count goals, as much as I love them, are not always the best goals to have when you’re writing. So I’ve made a list of the pros and cons of word count goals. I’m not talking about daily word count goals here, I’m talking about goals like writing 50, 000 words in one month.
-A word count goal, particularly one that you’ve told everyone about or that is part of an online challenge like Nanowrimo, forces you to write.
-It’s a definitive goal with a set time period, which helps you accomplish something.
-It’s easily divided into smaller chunks with a calculator. (Or if you’re really smart, without one.)
-It helps you focus on writing the story itself and not on the individual words.
-It helps you force aside your inner editor when you’re writing a first draft.
-It’s hard to sustain throughout the year.
-It doesn’t incorporate editing as part of the goal, and sometimes you really do need to just sit down and edit something, pushing other projects aside.
-It usually makes for more editing when you look at it later due to more typos and bad word choices. And more run on sentences.
-It makes you focus simply on output, not on the quality of output, and is dangerous to do all of the time.
Despite my background in Nanowrimo, I’ve learned that I shouldn’t set a high word goal every month. Somebody who’s in it just for fun, maybe. But somebody who’s serious about publication sometimes needs to focus on editing or preparing for–or participating in–writing workshops and conventions. Sometimes you really only should be writing a little bit every day to keep in practice. Every once in a while, you need to take a day off. When you set yourself high word goals all the time, you often set yourself up for disappointment. We can’t push our lives completely aside all year to write incredible amounts. Sometimes, we just have to take it slow.
Do you like to set yourself high word count goals? What other kinds of writing goals do you set for yourself?