Word count. It’s a number many people put a lot of weight into. How much a writer can write per day, word-wise can result in high productivity. In a world that demands more content at a breakneck pace, being prolific – able to produce a lot of words quickly can be the difference between a successful career and falling behind. However, high output isn’t necessarily a make or break. While writing lots of words each day means you have more content you can put into the world and then make money from (hence a successful career), high output is not the end all be all. Remember, there are oodles of different types of writers. A UX writer will have a much different output than a serial romance novelist.
The average professional writer will write between 500 to 2,500 words in a day. This has many variables, however, including the type of writing, deadlines, and personal writing habits. Consistency is another consideration, as writers’ outputs will often vary somewhat from day to day with some days looking higher and closer to 5,000 to 10,000 and other days looking lower below 500 words.
500 Words a Day Word Count Goals
A common word count goal amongst writers is 500 words a day. This doesn’t mean these writers stop at 500 words so it’s not necessarily a matter of 500 being how many they can write but rather how little they can write on any given day.
500 words is relatively achievable for most professional writers. Depending on the writer, 500 words is 30 minutes to 2 hours of time at the keyboard. That’s only a small slice of dedication, like making sure you do your daily chores and getting in a workout at the gym.
No Set Number Goals
While 500 words a day seems to be the general consensus for those who set word count goals, many writers don’t set a daily word count goal. Life for a writer changes day in and day out. Especially for non-fiction writers or writers who work in marketing, their time may lean more into researching on some days while other days are dedicated heavily to writing.
Setting a hard word count goal can actually stifle motivation for some people. It’s best, when determining your own word count goals, to play around with the number and consider your own lifestyle. Don’t force something that isn’t going to happen, it’ll just lead you to frustration.
Binge Writing Versus Daily Writing
You’ll generally find two types of writers – binge writers and daily writers. Daily writers have a consistent daily word count goal and they write roughly the same amount of words every day. This is great for consistency and avoiding burnout. Binge writers on the other hand will do the bulk of all their writing without short periods of time. There is nothing wrong with this approach as words on a page are words on a page. The only thing to watch out for if you’re a binge writer (like me!) is to make sure you’re keeping up with your deadlines and giving yourself enough time to properly edit your work before birthing it into the world for all to see.
How I Approach Daily Word Count
I’ve tried daily word count goals. I’ve failed daily word count goals. And I’ve repeated the process more times than I’d like to count.
My days are rather varied and with a day job and side projects keeping me busy, my writing work sometimes takes a backseat. (More often than I would like it to, if I’m being honest.) What does work for me, however, is a monthly word count goal. Each month I’ve been setting out with 50,000 words in mind. Some months I don’t reach it, but some months I do. I often find I write sporadically with some days logging thousands of words and some days inching by with only a couple hundred. If daily word counts don’t work for you, I’d highly recommend trying out a weekly or monthly word count goal instead.
My personal approach to daily word count works for me. It might not work for you. I recommend, as most professional writers will, to test out different writing rituals and goals until you find the right fit. Writing is not, and never will be, one size fits all.
Famous Writers Word Counts
Daily word counts vary wildly from writer to the next. Here are a few famous writer’s average daily word counts to give you an idea of the variance in daily word counts from one creator to the next.
Ernest Hemingway – 500 Words
Ernest Hemingway is recorded as writing an average of 500 words a day.
Danielle Steel – 20 to 22 Hours a Day
Measuring not in words but in hours, the famous romance novelist Danielle Steel states she writes 20 to 22 hours a day in a blog post she wrote. How many words this is exactly, we don’t know for sure. But based on her prolific catalog of published works, it’s safe to assume the number is quite high.