Why I Stop Writing When I Reach My Daily Word Count Goal

Happy April!

Spring is in full swing here in Missouri now–and it even feels like it! I took some visiting family downtown to the Gateway Arch yesterday, and it was lovely walking around, soaking in the sun.

My April newsletter is out today, with a fun extra for My Second Impression of You readers. It includes a quiz to discover which character you’re most like. I hope you’ll check it out and let me know who you get!

Last month I posted about why I love writing out of order, and I also mentioned that I  set a daily word count goal–and I stop writing as soon as I reach that goal for the day.

I usually set a deadline 2-3 months out from my start date.

I love that Scrivener allows me to choose which days I typically write (weekdays) and then calculates my daily goal based on the number of days per week and my end date.

I do all of my writing in Scrivener, which offers many options for daily word count goals. Usually I set an overall word count, select which days I plan to write, and choose an end date that puts me somewhere around 1,700 words per day. That puts me at 8,500 words per typical work week. Without interruptions, I usually finish a draft in about two and a half months. I’ve found that to be my sweet spot.

With this current project, I started drafting without a full outline, so I began at 500 words per day and added 100 more words per day until I got up to 1,700 words per day.

But Michelle, what if you’re in the middle of a scene? Don’t you want to write to the end of it?

Nope! Sometimes I stop in the middle of a paragraph. I’ve even been known to stop in the middle of a sentence.

But Michelle! Ahh! What if you don’t remember what you were going to write next?

I get it. Every writer is different. I recently read a book in which a writer had been stuck for months with no inspiration. When it suddenly struck, she wrote non-stop for like twenty-four hours.

And that sounds impossible to me. I could not sit at my computer and pound out words with no end in sight.

As I write each day, a bar across the top shows my progress toward the overall goal (I’ve surpassed that for this project), while another bar across the bottom shows my progress toward the daily goal. When it reaches the far right, I know I’m finished for the day.

The biggest reason? I hate drafting, and I need goals to get through it. If you love drafting, you’re probably like this fictional writer, happily in the zone, putting 30,000 words on a page in twenty-four hours. Meanwhile, I spend each day watching the bar on my Scrivener file creep toward the goal, anticipating the moment I can rejoice in my daily accomplishment and move on to a diffferent task.

Another reason I love stopping when I reach my daily goal is that I am not starting with an entirely new thought the next day. It’s the best feeling to open up my file, skim over what I wrote the day before, and jump right in mid-thought. I find it much easier to start writing in the middle of a scene than to start a brand new one each day.

Finally, I feel that my writing is stronger when I give my brain a break from drafting to work on other things. Whether it’s reading for a critique partner, making a social media graphic, working on a freelance assignment, or reading, my brain works best if it’s not focused solely on drafting. Honestly, most of my best ideas happen right before bed or in the shower. Who’s with me?

But that’s how my brain works. What about you? Do you have a set routine for drafting, or do you just write straight through until you reach the end?

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