word count

How many words-an-hour do you write, on average?  Never thought about?  No idea?  Vague idea?  Or a sneaking suspicion you’re probably really slow and let’s leave the discussion there?

There’s four reasons why you should have a very clear idea of how many words you write-per-hour.  Your average word count will change from year to year, and from genre to genre.  It is also affected by external factors: Your health, your personal circumstances, where you’re writing, how many books you’ve written in this genre/series and so forth.

Therefore you need to keep permanent track of how many words you write per writing session, and average it out, so that you have a constantly revised average words-per-hour figure.

Here’s why.

1. You can estimate how many books a year you can write.

If you’re running a day job, a life, and a writing career (and includes promotion, too), then knowing how many books you can write per year becomes not just a curiosity thing, but a genuine marketing and productivity need-to-know number.    I offered up a spreadsheet for calculating this figure in “Don’t Panic. You CAN Juggle It All And Still Have A Life, Too.” and one of the figures you need to insert in that sheet is your words-per-hour average.

Even if you’re not using that spreadsheet, knowing your Average Word Count so that you can estimate how many books a year you can write is useful for all sorts of long range planning and helps you relax, knowing you can get the job done between lunch breaks and daily commutes.

2.  You’ll sound more professional speaking to other industry professionals.

When you’re speaking to editors and agents, and are asked for a date by when you can deliver a manuscript, if you know absolutely what your best Average Word Count is, you can come up with either a hard or generous deadline date and know that you can deliver on time.  You can state that deadline with conviction.   It comes across as far more professional than a writer who sits there going “Gee…let me think…I dunno, maybe…six months?”

3.  You’ll know if your rate is dropping.

Monitoring your Average Word Count also means you’ll become aware of slow-downs and be able to analyze if there’s any cause for alarm.  The reason may be obvious, such as swapping over to a tough new genre.  But if there’s no apparent reason for the drop-off, then more careful analysis may uncover external factors in your life that are having a negative impact on your writing.  You can make adjustments now to stave off any long term damage.

If you were not tracking your word count, though, it’s possible you would miss this early warning symptom altogether and only have your attention drawn to the problem when your writing came to a complete screeching halt later on.

4.  You’ll know if your rate is climbing.

The flip side, of course, is that you can adjust external factors in your life, as well as writing styles, techniques and your writing environment, to enhance your Average Word Count, then watch your Average Word Count to see if the rate climbs accordingly.

Even small improvements to your Average Word Count can have massive impact on your annual productivity – run the figures yourself using the Books-a-year calculator, and adjusting the word count up and down by a few hundred words, and you’ll see what I mean.  Striving to become even a more slightly efficient writer pays in the end.  This doesn’t have to mean you’re selling out as a creative artist, either.  But you are in business and do need to make money, so finding pain-free ways to write more-per-hour will help your bottom-line.

There are also highly creative people who simply delight in being as prolific as possible, and for them, improving their Average Word Count is the bottom line.   Perhaps one of the most famous prolific writers was Isaac Asimov, who wrote well over 200 books in his lifetime, but there are dozens more writers who delighted in writing more. If prolificacy runs in your blood, then tracking your word count should be one of your major measuring tools.

First appeared on Bootstrap Bookmarketing Coop.

Published on: Dec 20, 2009 @ 11:40

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