Competitive Writing; Keeping up with other writers.

Something I’ve noticed on Twitter lately is everyone posting their word count for the day. Now I’m all for accountability. If you’re going to say you’re a writer, then write, don’ t just talk about it, but this whole idea of posting word counts has me wondering if writers think this is the standard in which they have to follow. Some of these word counts are a little intimidating, even for me and I’ve been writing for a few decades.

Each day I see these counts pop up (and some of them are high), sometimes with the accompanying ‘I’m going to beat yesterday’s total.’ To me, this is worrisome. Is the excitement of writing a novel creating an underlying pressure for writers to push themselves to levels that may be un-obtainable? A new writer who sets a goal of writing 5k words per day, every day, for weeks at a time, could end up with serious side-effects. Especially if the words stop flowing.  

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying writers should limit how much they write, I just want them to be aware of their limitations. For a new writer, most of that 5k is going to be crap. They’re just writing for the sake of it, and not really thinking about what they’re writing. Don’t believe me? Ask any veteran about their earlier work, and you’ll hear stories of plots that go nowhere, and ramble on for pages. Yes, I’ve said it’s important to get the story out of your head, but I said story; not ten pages of shit. Could explain why I see an epidemic of people complaining they hate editing and have to revise numerous times.

Writers, take your time and feel the story you’re trying to write. Don’t worry about what other writers are doing—you’re not them. You do what you feel you can do, and leave the high word counts to others. Don’t worry, one day you’ll be able to say you had a 5k word count day, but it’ll be all good words.


About Darke Conteur
Darke Conteur is a writer at the mercy of her Muse. The author of stories in several genres, she prefers to create within the realms Science Fiction and Dark Fantasy. A pagan at heart, her personal goal it to find her balance within nature; exploring the dark through her stories and the light through her beliefs. When not writing or working with crystals, she enjoys knitting, gardening, cooking and very loud music.

11 Responses to Competitive Writing; Keeping up with other writers.

  1. Despite being one of these authors who likes to post his word count and often does high word counts (6 to 10k in a day), I do it because I’ve worked out a detailed outline first. I know the story works; I know what the characters need to do and where they are going. I don’t recommend writing that many words on many consecutive days for the reasons you mention. But I aim for a big splurge once a week or once a fortnight to keep the progress up.

    If the story is outlined well enough, then the revisions shouldn’t need that much more work. But then that brings in a whole other argument about whether you should write a quick first draft and then fix, or write the best first draft possible regardless of time.

    Personally, my approach is similar to Stephen King’s. He likes to write a first-draft as quick as he can so that the story and ideas are fresh during the initial writing. Once he has the first draft down, he then has something to work with during editing/revision.

    The danger of trying to make the first draft perfect is that it never gets finished, and you start editing/revising as you’re writing.

    But either way, each writer has to find their own method. Some will want and like to write many thousands of words per days, while other prefer to chip away slowly at their story. Neither is correct for everyone.

  2. I agree. I also don’t believe the old line about writers must write every day. No, we don’t. Some days we edit. Some days we think. Some days we go do something in real life so we have an experience to file away in our subsconscious that might give us something to write about another day. I’ll take 12 good words today over 5,000 words of crap. Although somedays, I like the 5,000 words of crap, because it gives me a lump of clay to sculpt into something on another day.

    • Agreed. I would LOVE to be able to write a thousand words a day, every day, but sometimes, even that is beyond my reach. Real life is what we have to attend to in between our shots of writing brilliance.

  3. When I first delved back into writing fiction, I used to write like my hair was on fire and the only thing that would put it out was a finished story. Then, when I realized that said story was so bad the prospect of revising was almost too tiresome to even think about, I started to put on the brakes a little.

    I definitely don’t edit while I write, and I certainly don’t fuss over every little detail in that first draft or expect it to be perfect. But I definitely try to take a more deliberate approach to the process and take my time so I can make decisions with a little more thought and care than I used to. As a result, I don’t usually write more than a thousand or so words a day. Some days might be more productive, but that’s usually over the course of an entire day with lots of breaks in between. This previous NaNoWriMo, I was writing the bare minimum needed to keep just ahead of the pace, and as a result, I finished the month with a complete novel, and one that was far easier to revise and expand than my previous efforts.

    So I definitely think, if you’re not the kind of writer who likes to plot or outline ahead of time (the idea of an outline will always be a buzzkill for me), and if you find yourself easily discouraged by a lengthy and discouraging revision process, I’d say it’s probably best to slow it down and write with a little more care and purpose, even if it means you’re lagging behind some of your peers. It’s not productive if most of your effort goes out the window.

    Work smarter, not harder.

    • ‘Work smarter, not harder.’
      That is an excellent mantra. I plot out everything. I’m not a pantser person, but I agree, just because you don’t plot doesn’t mean you can’t think about what your writing. Save you so much frustration and heartache in the end.

  4. Wonderful point Darke!. I, too, see the word counts posted and they are intimidating, but they make me wonder how many of those words are actually USABLE. Each writer should write at their own pace and think about what they are writing as they go along. That way their plots will not be wandering and meaningless, ending up in countless rewrites and edits. Make sure what you put down on a page has a reason to be there!

    • Exactly. If you’re writing for the sake of writing, then you’re not writing…0_o. You’re not thinking about what’s being put on those pages. Then, when it comes to revisions, I’m seeing people complain because they have this ‘horrible re-write’ or revisions. That can cause as much stress as trying to keep up with the daily wordcounts.

  5. Hear, hear! Great post, Darke.

    There is a different type of competition in the performance storytelling world, and I’m not sure yet how I feel about it. I participate in a monthly story slam, a competitive storytelling series, told in the back room of a restaurant/bar. Growing out of the poetry slam movement, the story slam has judges holding up numbers rating each storyteller’s five-minute performance on a scale of 1-10. Unlike the word count competition which emphasizes only quantity, the slam emphasizes listener entertainment and provides instant feedback. Any thoughts about that type of competition?

    • I don’t know if I like that or not. The idea of judging someone’s talent, especially if they’re new, could put off that person if they get a low score. Plus, t there is the whole ‘style’ part of it. There are so many different ways to write, and what may appeal to one person, may not appeal to another. I was content editor on a flash fiction ezine for a year and a half. I saw some EXCELLENT stories, but because there were other editors that didn’t care for it, the peices never got picked. There was nothing wrong with them, apart from the fact the other editors didn’t care for them. That would be my own concern with a competition like that.

  6. Matt says:

    Well said, Darke. Ever since I first read King’s “On Writing,” I’ve found his lessons and suggestions quite helpful.

    • Thanks for posting!
      I haven’t read that book, but I’ve heard good things about it. Unfortunately, many writers think if they follow his instructions to the letter, they’ll write just like him. Like any book on writing, it should be incorporated with your own style.

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