Word counts

I’m curious: Are any of you interested in reading about writers’ word counts? And if so why? Cause I confess I’m not sure I entirely get the point of blogging about it. And those who post ’em on your blog why do you?

Don’t get me wrong I keep an eagle eye on my word counts. They are the measure of my days.1 I’m aiming to hit 60 thou by the last week of July. But, you know, it’s housekeeping. I don’t keep people posted on how many dishes I’ve washed, meals I’ve cooked, or hours I’ve spent exercising.2

Now, I know that I blog about many things that people find deadly dull such as quokkas and sport of any kind and that doesn’t stop me—actually it provokes me to further bloggage on topics of annoyance to the complainers. However, I can defend and explain why I blog on those topics. So to repeat my opening: why do you blog your word counts if you do? And does anyone other than the blogger of the word count get anything out of it?

Coming up soon: my post on the sport of quokkas.

  1. Better than coffee spoons. []
  2. For the record: today I’ve washed no dishes, put together two meals, and spent an hour at the gym. I’ve also bitten off all my fingernails and failed to find my favourite T-shirt. Every second of today, er, yesterday, was a thrill ride! []


  1. El on #

    I’m interested in how people do what they do. Seeing some who assiduously meet daily quotas, others who post word counts three times a day when in the flow and stop for weeks on end, some who write voluminously and others who barely write–and seeing how the results turn out–entertains.

    Some writers have said they post because being publicly accountable helps them to get the words done. There’s at least one LiveJournal community, Novel in 90, that’s basically about public accountability and being mocked (very very gently) if you miss. Tried that briefly, but it didn’t suit.

  2. cherie priest on #

    I fully agree that word counts are boring; but I do it as a means of holding myself accountable to someone, somewhere — even if it’s only the uncaring internets 🙂

    Besides. So many people read because they want to know “how writers do it.” Well, they do it in one long continuous slog; and most of the time, it’s as wholly inglorious as the thin red line of a creeping word meter bar.

  3. trudi on #

    I do the word count tally thing in my writing diary, so I feel like I’m making progress. And I’m a bit of a statistics freak. I set up a spreadsheet that tells me what my average word count is for a chapter, or a part. Patterns emerge, like that chapters tend to get smaller as I get closer to a peak in the story.

    I’ve posted word counts before, but only on my private LiveJournal, which is only visible to friends. I suspect it’s me saying to my friends “Look. I’m working. Not sitting around sipping wine and reading magazines like you all must think I do.”

    I started posting a word count of my latest book on my author blog last year. Mainly because of the excitement factor. Fans know that book is getting ever closer to being in their hands. (And it’s also like saying “Look. I’m working. Not sipping… etc. etc.”) But then when things started going pear shaped with our house extension I stopped, because I would have had to explain why, and wasn’t sure I could do so without legal implications.

  4. Herenya on #

    I think word counts can be interesting. It’s finding out how much authors are able to write in what time frame, and what they consider achievable it’s part of discovering how writers write.

    Also, until recently, I didn’t even have an idea of how many words an average novel contained. I’d look at things I’d written and really not have a clue whether that was long or short or what!

    From the perspective of being a blogger about word counts, sometimes there’s a sense of achievement in reaching a certain number, or a way of expressing just how frustratingly unproductive your day/week has been. Just like people who find cooking or exercise a noteworthy process might blog about that. 😛

  5. barb on #

    My reasons would be accountability, desperation or showoffedness. I couldn’t put a counter on display because there doesn’t seem to be a negative button.

  6. Benjamin on #

    As someone who is just starting to write (again), and is finally finding that it usually is possible both to write frequently and to work effectively at my day job, I have been noting my word counts fairly often on my blog. That’s because for me the blog is something around which my writing revolves. It’s a reference point: a literal and metaphorical somewhere that I can put my thoughts about writing.

    That said, I have mostly been putting word counts up by attaching them to other posts. The danger there is that in order to put up a word count, I have to come up with a worthwhile post, and that’s time I could be spending writing. So, I’ve just started to keep a running total on my ‘About’ page, instead. I hope that updating that count will provide me with the same sense of progress.

    As for reading them on other people’s blogs, I am really only interested for comparative purposes to my own progress. Since I’m not a pro, it’s usually like comparing apples and oranges, and I wonder if it might be a little counterproductive.

  7. ~grace~ on #

    I used to keep track… then I’d stop writing for a couple weeks (finals, midterms, knee injuries, the usual) and the number would just stay the same and depress me. So I stopped.

    People probably care when “real writers” (you) do it because it is awesome (in the original sense of the word->awe-inspiring) to see a real live writer at work. Yet another way of giving us a peek into your life of glamor.

    Writing is such a funny thing…why are people so interested in the minutiae of professionals’ lives? Nobody cares how many hours a day a tax accountant accounts…

  8. Eric Luper on #


    As for word count, it is of no interest to me.

    Today’s blog comment word count (including this word-count announcement and everything in these parentheses): 32

    Note: There may have been blog overlord intervention on this comment.

  9. Amie Stuart on #

    I post mine only because I need some sort of accountability. And yes I know at the end of the day I have to be most accountable to myself, but color me weird 😀

  10. Kelly McCullough on #

    I haven’t posted word counts because I tend to write in bursts and seeing the two and three week gaps where I didn’t get something done would irritate me. That said, I may start with the next book to see if that can help me break the current plateau of two books a year.

  11. Justine on #

    Interesting . . .

    Kelly McCullough: I may start with the next book to see if that can help me break the current plateau of two books a year.

    Two books a year! Hah! Wish I could write more than one book a year!

  12. Dess on #

    Sport of quokkas? Now that’s a sport me and my very small attention span would watch.

  13. Celsie on #

    I think it started becoming popular when NaNoWriMo did. Everyone saw these really cool counter bars and charts, and it became a way to inspire yourself.

    For me, the act of setting that on my blog helps me to see how close I am to my goal, and how much I need to be writing, not blogging. Like a few other people, I also keep it up for accountability. A few writer friends could notice that I have been stuck at 80k for a week, and then enjoy a good natured ribbing at my expense.

    If one of the authors I read (such as yourself or your husband) were to post a word count, it would be exciting to see how quickly you go through words, or how fits and spurts work.

    Ultimately, I view it as a motivator for those of us without deadlines. It works for some, it distracts some, and it’s just plain useless for others.

  14. Gillian on #

    As a reader (ie non-writer) I enjoy seeing the word count meters of the authors whose blogs I read. For a reason I find hard to explain, it’s quite fascinating and I tune in breathlessly each day to see how much the writer has got done today. She’s written loads! Yay! Not much today! Boo!
    This is particularly fascinating if the author has also posted their deadline and I can see how well she is keeping on target! Novel writing as a spectator sport! Yes I do have a rather boring life. Why do you ask?

  15. nadai on #

    Is the sport of quokkas anything like badminton?

    I like seeing authors’ word counts. There’s just something fascinating about the whole process you all go through to finish your books. It’s so much more elaborate than I ever thought.

  16. hillary! on #

    I really couldn’t care less about word counts. I don’t even know what that means, lenght wise. Does it mean 300 pages, or 900? And even if you did put in page counts, I wouldn’t care. I just like a good story. Whether it be sad or funny, I don’t care, so long as it’s good and gets me thinking.

    I don’t read my favorite authors blogs to see how many words they’ve written, but to see if they are writing about something that made them feel happy. Before they freak out and start to doubt themselves like MJ and Libba Bray say they do, and in that case I just like to know that they put so much of themselves into a book.

    Does that make sense?

  17. Gabrielle on #

    I do think it’s interesting, though not vital, to know how people are doing with their writing, especially your friends. I dunno. I do have a wordcount on my blog, even though I don’t update it very often. I think there’s a sort of satisfaction in posting the big shiny wordcount, especially after writing a lot.

  18. Cat Sparks on #

    I blog my word counts because it makes me happy to do so. I don’t expect anyone else to give a shit about them though.

  19. Lunamoth on #

    I tossed around the thought of word counts, but then ultimately decided that that would mean I have to pick a goal word-count to begin with. And, at this stage of my unpublished writing career, my stories are neither too short or too long; they arrive at the exact number of words that they’re meant to when completed. 😉

  20. Mary Elizabeth S. on #

    I track my word counts very carefully, because they make my progress feel more concrete. I can see if things are dragging as slowly at they feel like they are or, conversely, if I’m moving along as fast as I think I am.

    I used to share my word counts, but stopped because it made me self-conscious. When I kept them to myself, I’d look at a tiny little 500 word day and think, “This was a good day, that bit came together wonderfully!” But when I was sharing my word counts, I’d look at a 500 word day and feel terrible about it, no matter how well I’d done.

    When it comes to other people posting word counts, well, I love it. I guess it’s because I always like to see how other people do what I’m doing, but I don’t know really. I echo Grace’s sentiment about real-live writers actually writing. :]


  21. JK on #

    I think hearing about author’s word counts is acctually interesting. I have no idea why, but it is. Mabye it’s a sort of amazement that you guys do what you do, or mabye it’s just exciting hearing about the book at all, like more news on this book that you are waiting to come out and the higher the word count goes the closer to being finished, and you know read-able or whatever. (long sentance) Of course us normal people have to wait for the books to officially come out anyway, but it’s still kind of cool.

  22. Kelly McCullough on #

    Two books a year is a fairly recent development, basically the last six books (numbers 6-12). Numbers 2-5 each took about a year to write. When I look at actual time spent writing it looks like I can maybe get up to three a year and that’s going to be the ceiling. Of course none of that will matter if I can’t get to a place where I’m selling more than one a year.

  23. Amie Stuart on #

    Mary, one of the hardest things we have to learn to do in this business is not compare ourselves to other writers (I think we all do it–me included).

    And you could look at it another way–500 words a day is two pages a day. If 1 page a day is a book a year then two is two books. Not too shabby!

  24. Justine on #

    Kelly: Three books a year gave Scott shingles. I’m just saying . . .

    Amie: What you said. Comparisons really are invidious. Everyone writes differently and we all have our bad days.

  25. Kelly McCullough on #

    Ouch, shingles is really nasty. I’ll have to watch out for that. The hope is that I can write three a year without killing myself. I’m not sure it’s possible, but if I don’t at least try, I’ll never know whether I’m really operating at my max or if I’m underperforming. Since I don’t have that many under contract I can find out now without committing myself irrevocably to the impossible.

  26. Justine on #

    Without killing yourself is the key part! Also leaving enough time to be able to breathe for a bit.

    I’ve been trying for the last few years to write two books a year and have yet to manage it. The best I’ve been able to do is one and a half. But I plan to keep trying. And, yes, only one of those is contracted. You’re right about not committing yourself to what might turn out to be impossible!

  27. Don Vaillancourt on #

    I would read about word counts for someone who was serious about writing and needed all the motivation and support they could get. But most of the bloggers in my circle don’t post their word count. Although one blogger I know does post her chapter number has she completes them.

    It’s all good.

  28. Mary Elizabeth S. on #

    Ooh, Amie, I love that! I hadn’t thought of 500 words like that before.

    And you’re absolutely right, it’s hardly fair to compare. Most people’s writing processes vary rather wildly, so it makes sense that word counts would reflect that.


  29. Owldaughter on #

    My journal’s a place to record things that are important to me which just so happens to be public, so my word counts are included. Like some others above, I do it partly to keep myself accountable, partly to cheer myself on, and partly to demonstrate that word count doesn’t necessarily equal progress. Although to be honest I don’t post my work progress on my official author blog; I reserve that for news and announcements and such. I record word counts and progress in my just-a-regular-person blog.

    I’m one of those people who likes to peek at other authors’ blogs and see how they work, so word counts interest me so long as the author is interested in them too. If word counts aren’t how the author tracks progress, then they do it in other ways, which I find just as interesting. Word counts alone, however, are useless; they need to be couched in some sort of context (how the work went, if it was flowing and why, or if the author’s fingers and brain were recalcitrant and mutinous [I love Sarah Rees Brennan’s LJ too!], and so forth). So I suppose word counts aren’t what is most important to me; it’s the context and talk about the day’s work, really.

  30. Lori S. on #

    I’m not particularly interested in other people’s word counts, and I don’t post mine. I also don’t like to talk about work in progress much, or “process” in general.

  31. Carrie R. on #

    I used to post my word count but then stopped. Because I found I was writing ANYTHING just to get words on the page in order to move that stupid little meter. And then I was afraid to cut those awful words cause the meter would go down. So I now boycott the word meter.

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