Word Count vs. Timed Writing: Which is Right For You?

If you ask almost any writer what they wish they had more of (besides money, of course!), the answer is usually more time to write. In this day and age, everything from kids to social media can be barriers to that illusive time every writer seeks to sink back into the world of their story.

Once you’ve managed to carve out that time, you’ve got to discover the best method to keep you motivated and writing so you can feel like you’re making true progress.

During my grad school career, I had a teacher who swore by the method that you should set a timer for about 42 minutes. He said if you wrote for 42 minutes, then you’d probably end up writing for far longer because you’d get engrossed in the story.

I tried that method, and it didn’t work for me. I kept watching the clock tick down in time with the blinking cursor on my blank page. The ticking clock didn’t inspire me; it froze me in place, making me worry about all the time I’d already wasted. And suddenly, I felt like I didn’t have enough time left to come up with anything productive.

Luckily, I had another friend who told me she had a word count she wanted to hit each day. And that worked for me. I set my limit rather low at just 500 words a day. Some days those 500 words were a struggle, but many days (most, in fact), I found myself far surpassing that milestone. It was just 500 words. That’s like one single-spaced Word document page. I could do that. I didn’t feel overwhelmed by it. And unlike the clock ticking down, my word count was ticking up, making me feel like I was accomplishing something.

Writing is all about balancing the time you have with a method that allows you to write and still feel like you’re moving the story forward.

Are you a timed writer or word counter? Do you use another method? Share your responses in the comments.



4 thoughts on “Word Count vs. Timed Writing: Which is Right For You?

  1. I can only use word count when writing nonfiction- blog entries, commissioned posts, etc. That’s the space allotted, and that’s the space I can fill. With fiction, word count paralyzes me; I can count words or tell stories, but not both at the same time. So, I tell the story first, let it all spill out, and then I can prune or expand as needed at the end of the draft. For a session, I like to write by scene. If I had to pick between word count and time, it’s time all the way. Blocking out x minutes/hours works for me, as I love to organize.


  2. Annie,

    I have never had a problem filling out whatever block of time I have to write. Almost always, I have more to write than I have time to write it in. Maybe that is because the story is always running in my mind like a computer program. Constantly churning, even when I am not thinking about it so that when I do have time to write, the story flows out as fast as my fingers will hit the keys.

    Interesting about the 42 minute thing. I guess it makes sense but if you are forcing yourself to write and constantly watching the clock then maybe you don’t have a compelling reason to write.



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