Problems With Small Word Count Goals

I’ve been working on a new story starring some of my existing characters. It’s more or less a writing exercise and started as a fun idea I got from a character meme I found awhile back. For this story, I set my daily word count goal to 500 words. That’s not really a lot for me. It’s only about one page in Microsoft Word.

A little word count like that ought to be easy, but it’s not. After I write my 500 words, I find that I’m only hitting my stride and getting back into the story and the characters from the day before. I usually try to end each 500-word segment at a cliffhanger so I can pick right back up the next day, but it doesn’t work. I still feel like I’m cutting myself off right when I was just getting into it, sort of like watching the beginning of a TV show, then stopping it after five minutes.

To fully reorient myself, I have to write at least 1300 words, which is my usual word count. (Don’t ask why it’s 1300 – I honestly don’t know.) Maybe I’m just not used to such a small word count goal. It might take time to learn to write in 500-word increments rather than 1300 words at a time. Or perhaps I should just keep writing 1300 words at a time… it’s something I need to think about.

How about you? How many words/pages/lines do you have to write before you “hit your stride”?

15 thoughts on “Problems With Small Word Count Goals

  1. That’s a good question. For me, it’s more of a time thing. I usually get going about 30 minutes in to my writing session. That’s usually the sweet spot.

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  2. I’m curious as to why you would lower your word count goal when you naturally write more than twice that? For me, I usually write about the same, 1000 – 1500 words, though sometimes it’s a lot more and sometimes it’s a lot less. I definitely try to make my goal of 1000 words a day, but I don’t limit it to that.

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  3. I don’t have any idea how many words I write (I never count my words, and I write with a pen), but 500 seems like a very small amount. I’m sure I don’t really get going until I’m past that. I’d say try to structure your writing time into fewer (and longer) chunks, otherwise you’ll spend more time remembering where you were and less time writing.

    (OTOH, I’ve seen a lot of television shows where five minutes was about all I wanted to see. πŸ™‚ )

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    • That makes a lot of sense. Thank you for the advice. πŸ™‚ And about the TV shows, I think that’s why I don’t watch much TV anymore. Nothing that’s on really grabs my attention.

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  4. Except when writing for NaNoWriMo, I’ve never set a word or time goal for my writing.

    But I expect that 500 words would be too little unless I was working on a short story. And I would not STOP myself from writing if I was “on a roll” . . . unless life got in the way.

    Which, of course, it does at times. πŸ˜€

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    • I’m thinking of raising my word goal back up to normal (somewhere around 1300 words), but the reason I lowered it was life getting in the way. Thanks, Nancy!

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  5. I write till I run dry. That’s often about five hundred words, but since I write a lot of dialogue, it’s multiple pages. There comes a point when forcing myself to continue will only result in rubbish that I’ll have to delete later. As Isaac Asimov warned in an essay years ago, I’ll never be a prolific writer.

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    • If Asimov is the standard, then none of us will ever count as “prolific.” I’m okay with that.

      Out of curiosity, I just estimated the number of words in the scene I wrote yesterday (a pivotal one in the story I’m writing). It’s handwritten, so this is very approximate, but it looks like around 750. It’s a good scene, though.

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  6. Very interesting topic. Like J.W. Hankins, I’ve mostly done timed writing sessions instead of wordcount sessions (well, except for NaNoWriMo). The time I set aside usually translates to about 1,000 – 1,200 words (less if I write non-fiction).
    It really varies how long time it takes for me to get back into a story. Sometimes I’m there before I sit down to write and can pick up where I left with no difficulty. It’s it’s been a while since I worked on the story in question, it usually takes a couple of hundred words to get there.

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    • It’s very rare when I can pick up right where I left off without difficulty. I need to stop writing in the middle of a sentence like Hemingway, that way I’ll be able to hit my stride earlier in the writing session.

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