Doing Battle with the Green-Eyed Monster of Wordcount Envy

Oh, Twitter. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

Let’s see…carry the one…adjust for inflation…taking the Kentucky windage into account…um…seventeen. No wait! Eighteen.

Twitter is a great thing for writers. And I’m not just talking about the whole, “build your platform and get your name out there” kind of thing (though that’s on the list). Twitter is host to a whole community of writers. And I’m not just talking about the big names here. I talking regular people like me and you, people who are still struggling to be published. Maybe they’re even still working on their first book.

When you’re feeling down, they’re there to encourage you. When you feel like no one in the world understands what you’re going through as a writer, chances are someone in your Twitter stream does.

But sometimes Twitter is a double-edged sword. At least it can be for me.

Lately I’ve been struggling a bit with my novel. Actually struggling is probably too strong a word. I know where I want to go with the story, but because of the fact that I’m doing research as I go, added on to the fact that I’m writing a slightly different voice than normal, things just haven’t been moving as fast as I’d like them to.

And then I log on to Twitter and I see Chuck Wendig and Adam Christopher and Kristen Lamb talking about the thousands of words they’re writing each day, and I start to get a little discouraged about my measly 700 words.

Maybe you’ve been there too. But I’m here to tell you not to worry about it.

Why? Because no two writers and no two stories are the same. It may be you just don’t have time to churn out daily word counts in the thousands. Or maybe you’re like me and the story you’re writing requires you to be more painstaking than usual.

The details don’t matter. What matters is you. If you let wordcount envy get you down, the next thing you know you’ll be saying to yourself, “Well, if I can’t write as much as those guys maybe I don’t have any business writing at all.”

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, WRONG.

Wow. That word looks weird when you repeat like that. Kind of like when you say a word over and over again and it starts to sound like…no wait. I was going somewhere. Yeah okay. You can only write as much as you can write.

Profound huh? But it’s true.

Terry Pratchett only wrote four or five hundred words at a time when he first started. Chuck Palahnuik wrote Fight Club in fifteen minute increments on his breaks at work.

It’s less important that you write a lot, and more important that you write consistently.

If you can only manage a couple of hundred words a day then commit yourself to those couple hundred words. No, you won’t be finished in a month. You may not be finished in a year.

Possibly the most important key to your success as a writer is that you make writing your habit. It should be something you do day in and day out, rain or shine, muse or no muse.

And I think you’ll find that if you keep going you’ll find yourself stretching the limits of what you’re capable of further and further. You’ll look back at those early days of writing and say, “I can remember when I thought a thousand words was a really good day. What was I thinking?”

That’s what we call growth my friend. And growth is what it’s all about.


I haven’t done this in a while, but I’ve got a reading assignment for you all today.

First up is a fantastic post by Jody Hedlund about why it’s so hard to be objective about your own work.

Second, go check out Chuck Wendig’s post about the closing of Border’s. It’s powerful stuff.

10 responses to “Doing Battle with the Green-Eyed Monster of Wordcount Envy

  1. Ya just try too hard, Al. Roll with it a little….

  2. Consistency is key for sure. I’m attempting to create a writing schedule with daily write goal. Some days I will go for 3-4K but others I’ll be lucky to get those 500 based on a weird work schedule.

    Off to read Chuck’s piece now. Nice post.

  3. I often think there are too many words out there. Reading, listening to drawn out, one-sided conversations, I ache to get to the point without too many details getting in the way.

    Word count envy is one thing, what about stats envy . . .

  4. Thinking 700 words is “measly” is part of the problem. 700 words is awesome. I know, because that was the minimum word count goal I used to write my last novel draft. Sure, I wrote a lot more than 700 words every day, but 700 was my threshold.

    600 or even 500 words is great too, if they are quality words. What if the high word count bar was set at 5000 words per day? Would 3000 words suddenly become abysmal? Some of the best authors have been “slow” writers. Would you consider their best-selling novels “measly”?

    If you think your words count is too low, you are comparing yourself to other people who aren’t you and who could never even dream of being you, because they don’t have your unique gifts. The writers who focus on high numbers are largely unable to focus on quality *out of the gate* IMO and end up having to spend more time revising, or simply putting out lesser quality work than they would have otherwise. Are you writing quality words? Or would you rather write 3000 words of filler, just to pad your word count? I’d rather write 700 quality words than 3000 measly words. 🙂

    • Thanks for the kick in the pants. I needed it.
      And you’re right, which is part of what I was trying to say in the post. Comparing yourself to others is an easy way to get discouraged. It can also lead to a big head. Neither is very healthy.

  5. Some days we write a lot, some days not so much. We’re human, not machines. But you hit on the most important factor, I think, Albert, when you said we must write consistantly, every day.

    Twitter is cool, isn’t it. I’ve met the greatest writer folk there. It’s an extended community. Just love them all.

  6. Thank you for writing this. There are days where the word “writer” is something that I wonder if I will ever be. Who am I to call myself such a thing ? I have no aspirations right now to write a novel but I just love to write. Small fiction, essay, whatever – it just makes me happy. And maybe that is enough. Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy – funny how that word does not start to look stranger no matter how many times you write it….

  7. Thank you for the timely post. Right now, I need a kick on the tush as a reminder to write.

  8. Pingback: Word Envy and the Writer | Escaping the Inkwell

  9. Good post and thanks. I don’t write by wordcount, but by how I am inspired and my accomplishment in writing about it; whether a poem or part of current book I am working on.

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