by Susan Mary Malone

Writers ask me this literally all the time. Especially when trying to find their sea legs, novel writers worry whether they’re writing enough. Often enough. Volume enough. Wanting to keep up with the Kings and the Pattersons.

“Should I set an hour/time or a word-count as my goal?”


When it comes down to the crux, fiction writing is a very personal endeavor. And all serious scribes do set some sort of production goals. The point is to find what works for you. And, to do so within the context of producing. In other words, it matters not how you get from point A to point Z, but only that you get to Z!

I know great book authors whose goal is to work for an hour a day. Period. The point is, for that hour they sit their butts in front of the computer. Every day. Even if each word typed is excruciatingly done, they still work. After all, the muse can be fickle, and some days she refuses to play. Not your concern if you’re committed (you always know she comes back!). And some days she roars with creativity, and three hours fly by without you knowing it.

Many others set word-count goals. And no “right” number exists for that. When I’m writing fiction, I set a goal of 1,000 words per day. Again, sometimes getting 250 down proves difficult. Conversely, some days’ work produces 3,000 brilliant ones (at least until I look at them the next day!). But usually that 1,000 words ends up being my average. It works for me.

If all this seems rather arbitrary, it is. Because a goal is just a goal—a standard to help guide you. To keep you honest. To keep you writing. It matters not how many actual words/scenes/chapters/pages you produce a day, nor how many hours you spend doing it. It only matters that you write. Regularly.

Especially when working on book-length fiction or nonfiction, when The End lives somewhere in the elusive and distant future, getting sidetracked is quite easy. And especially easy when you find yourself slogging through those dreaded sagging middles. Having a set daily writing goal kicks you in the butt to sit at the computer, whether you feel an ounce of creativity or not. Again, the muse will return at some point. And oddly, often in those very times of arid writing, you find yourself turning down a really right road you otherwise would have been racing too fast to see.

But even if what you write that day is schlock, you still wrote. The beauty of writing is that no other person on the face of this earth will see your first draft, and everything is up to debate whether it stays or goes. All that will be hashed out anyway in the book development.. So who cares if you write tripe in one session? You can always ax it the next day, or down the line.

Because in the end, all that matters is that you wrote.