I know writers who regularly write 20 pages a day, while others struggle to get a few pages written daily. I tend to be a bit haphazard, some days writing a lot and other days writing nothing, but in my never-ending quest to get it right, I often ponder–what’s the sweet spot?
Stephen King, in his memoir On Writing, advises his readers to write 10 pages per day. He also says to work every day. Other writers, such as Anne Lamott, tell us to celebrate a page or two as a victory. Who’s right? I think they both are. Stephen King writes popular fiction, while Anne Lamott’s work is a bit more serious for the most part. Serious, I believe, can take longer. Popular fiction, difficult as it is to write, doesn’t get too caught up in a perfect turn of phrase. Crafting a great scene is more important to the author of pop fiction.
I have found myself most able to stay steadily productive when aiming for 8-12 pages per day. Those pages might take all day to write, or they might take a few hours, depending on how well the words are flowing. I can write 5-6 rough pages in an hour when I’m really on a roll, but it’s more realistic to expect 3-4 pages an hour as an average pace for rough drafting. If I shoot for bigger goals, such as 20 pages in a day, I inevitably burn myself out and end up needing a day of no writing here and there. If I write less than 7 pages in a day (the length of an average scene, more or less), the work tends to feel choppy and stilted.
Why does any of this matter? It helps to get a sense of others’ practices so that we can determine what is realistic in goal-setting. My current goal is 4 pages per day, simply because my day job keeps me so busy I can barely hope to get that much done. It comes out choppy, yes, but a bad scene is better than no scene at all!
What’s your daily page count goal? How do you decide?