What is a reasonable daily word count goal?

I had to spend some time researching this, because the fact is, I have no idea how to set reasonable goals for myself. In the end, I didn’t find much helpful information out there and that’s probably because the answer depends on who’s asking the question.

In trying to nail down a reasonable goal for myself, I’m looking at a few different things.

  1. How many hours I have available to write. (Lots.)
  2. How much of my time is lost to breaks. (So, so much. Too much.)
  3. How much I can reasonably write in that time. (Not so much if past is a predictor of future performance—but does it have to be?)

I’ve decided that studying the past and looking at averages isn’t a good idea for me. I mean, the whole purpose of this is to give me a number I can aim for each day, but a number that’s not out of my reach. Something that I can legitimately expect from myself, not a number that is a hoped for but not often attained goal. I want this reasonable number to be something that will force me to face facts. Am I putting enough effort into my daily writing?

So, if I answer with as much honesty as I can squeeze out of myself, this is what I come up with.

  1. I have to explain this answer. Writing is both a work and leisure activity for me. What that means is that I’m just as happy doing it as any other leisure activity, as a general rule. Not to say there aren’t times when I’d rather be doing something else, but it’s at least as important to me as anything else I relax with. So, when I take out sleep time, personal hygiene activities, and chores (the least I can possibly get away with because life is short and I hate chores and I’m actually fairly efficient at getting them done quickly) I end up with about 14 hours.
    24 − 8.25 − 1 − .5 = 14.25
    It’s too much to expect myself to spend all this time writing, but it’s a place to start.
  2. I take a lot of breaks. I have reasons for some of those breaks because I like my tea and I have a particular bladder condition that means my days are filled with a lot of pee breaks. If this is TMI for you, you might not want to read my blog because I don’t have a lot of respect for the TMI rule. :D Let’s say I can learn to limit these (change is hard but not impossible). ;) Let’s say I can cut down to 25% of my time lost to breaks. Right now I swear sometimes it’s closer to 50%, but that’s because I’m terribly bad at letting myself start things during my breaks that almost always take longer than I expect. Let’s say I can stop that. So, 25% of writing time is not going to be used for writing.
  3. My overall WPH average is currently 524 words. More recently, that average has gone up to 641 words per hour. I’m going to use 641, just because I want to.
    14.25 × 75% × 641 = 6,850
    But answer #1 says I can’t use 14.25 hours. It’s just not realistic. I mean, when am I going to cook, eat, yell at my kids :D, and all the other stuff that inevitably needs to be done every day? So I did a few more calculations. Say it’s reasonable to write during only 50% of that 14.25 hours.
    7.125 × 75% × 641 = 3,425
    On the other hand, say it’s reasonable to write during 66% of that 14.25 hours, still leaving almost 5 hours for stuff besides those allowances I’ve already made.
    9.405 × 75% × 641 = 4,521
    I can cut this last one back to a very conservative 525 WPH pace, and I still come up with 3,703 words. That’s a good check figure. It falls somewhere in between my two main results and shows that even if I have a day where my pace slows down, I should still expect something that falls within the range I’ve calculated. Of course, I could keep tweaking these numbers and pretty much make them spit out any result I want. I’m not going to do that. This calculation uses reasonable assumptions and I’m sticking with it.

And there you have it. I should be expecting myself to reach at least something approaching these numbers every day that I write. Just looking at that makes me feel like a complete and total slacker, because I’m nowhere near those numbers on a regular basis.

All that said, I have no intention of using these calculations to create another schedule for myself or set a time-based writing goal. All I wanted to know was what a reasonable daily word count is for me, as a full time writer. It’s a lot more than I thought it would be.

It’s also a little bit inspiring. ;) I can do this.