Word Count Fatigue
It all started when I was listening to a podcast interview with a popular, indie romance writer. She said that these days, she likes to release a new book every single month. To keep up with this schedule, she writes around five thousand words a day.
“That’s really the only way to stay fresh in your readers’ minds.”
Lately, it seems like no matter what writing podcast I’m listening to, the advice I’m getting is all about speed, speed, speed. And I totally get it.
Writing fast = new books = visibility = book sales = financial abundance = more time to write = EFF YEAH.
But the thing is, there’s a dark side to this. And I think you already know what I’m talking about.
Word count fatigue is real. Here’s why it kicked my ass, and how I’m (fingers crossed) keeping it at bay.
Don’t Overheat the Engine
When I told myself that I had to write faster (right freaking now!) the results of my new obsession with speed were… not pretty.
I was rushing myself, plain and simple. No wonder all those stories I started eventually lost steam — I was overheating my engines! I learned the hard way that stories can’t be rushed. You can optimize your writing processes and set yourself up for success, but you cannot rush your story.
Writing takes as long as it takes. And that’s just how it is. Trying to rush yourself will only discourage you and make you less grateful for the words that you’ve created that day.
Look at the Time
Here are a couple of things that I didn’t take into account after listening to that awesomely prolific writer explain her book-a-month schedule.
First off, this was the schedule of a full-time author who admitted to writing for hours at a time. Most of us who work day jobs don’t have that luxury.
Secondly, this author probably took several years to build up the kind of stamina it takes to write at that pace every day — without emptying her creative well.
If you’re someone like me who “only” writes around a thousand words on most days, then it’s unrealistic to expect yourself to consistently produce several thousand words per day through force of will alone.
Who’s Counting? (Hint: Not Me)
So here’s what I did… To avoid word count fatigue, I just stopped counting words altogether. I don’t think this is an ideal solution for anyone who’s on a deadline, but in my case, it worked out pretty well.
Gone were the days that I would look at my word count and think, “Wow, I only got 1000 words today? What the eff?”
Seriously, guys. How messed up is that? One thousand words (or 500 words, or 200 words, or whatever) is nothing to sniff at. It’s more than you had yesterday, after all.
The Reasons Behind the Hurry
There’s a difference between writing fast and rushing yourself. After some thought, I realized what my deal was:
I was impatient — with myself, with the story, and with my career.
At the root of it all, I wasn’t appreciating the moment. And because of this, I was impatient with the process and tried to hurry it along.
It can be hard to embrace the moment when current circumstances are a little frustrating, but for what it’s worth, giving myself permission to slow down a little has made me more grateful for everything, including my semi-quiet writing life.
Dictation: My Golden-ish Ticket
I first started using dictation when I heard about it from (you guessed it!) a writing podcast. It promised giant leaps in my word count in much shorter timespans than simply pounding at the keyboard.
Finally, I had found my ticket to sky-high word counts and the kind of output that would make a seasoned WriMo blush!
Except… Not. The truth is, dictation is just another way of putting the words down on paper (or pixel). It may be physically faster than typing, but for me, it wasn’t an all-in-one solution.
These days, dictation and I are actually pretty close friends. And while dictation does help me squeeze a larger word count into a smaller chunk of time, it’s better to think of it as a tool, not a cheat code.
If there’s one thing my word-count fatigue did for me, it reminded me that magic was still part of the writing process.
It was news to me that, no matter how much I could try to optimize something, there was still an element of the unknowable here. It can be pretty humbling to admit that there is magic in writing and that part of storytelling can’t (and won’t) be rushed.
Somehow I thought that I could circumvent the fear and awkwardness of a first draft, but there’s no doing that. The only thing that I could do is try to set myself up for success by embracing the process.
Even if it’s scary, thrilling, and utterly frustrating at times.