Writing goals are one of the things I hear debated quite often among writers. For some reason, Stephen King is always mentioned in these conversations. Awestruck statements of, “I heard Stephen King writes a thousand words a day” always leave me a little mystified. I think to myself That’s great if it works for Stephen. Lord knows the man has enjoyed some success and maybe that has something to do with his daily writing goals. Maybe not. Because if we’re saying daily word counts are directly related to the number of books published which translates into success, then Stephen King far outstrips Harper Lee. Yet I doubt anyone would consider Harper Lee a failure.
There is a place in King’s book On Writing where he says something like you have to shovel the shit every day, meaning no matter how bad the writing is keep it up until you reach your daily word goal and edit it later. I don’t want to shovel shit. I’d rather mine for gold.
Why would I purposefully layer word after word, line after line of bad writing on top of something good, or worse on top of something else bad, just to say I’ve reached a daily word goal? I wouldn’t find that at all satisfying. Now don’t get me wrong: my work isn’t so perfect the first time around that it doesn’t need edited. It is, however, very close to my vision for a particular story because I took the time to think it through.
The other thing my method does for me is alleviate the pressure I feel when writer’s block stumps me. Again, I don’t feel the need to put anything on the page just to fulfill an arbitrary number. In doing so, I free myself to explore the rabbit trails that usually lead me to the good writing as long as I don’t force it.
So yes, there are days when my best writing amounts to a single, brilliantly written sentence, and there are days when whole chapters are completed. In either case, I count myself as successful because I’m more of a Ray Bradbury kind of writer when it comes to word counts: