There are generally accepted lengths for things like short stories (up to 10k), novellas (up to 40k), and novels (up to infinity) and, although they can vary a bit from person to person, and there are multiple other designations (novelette, flash, micro, epic) that some people throw in there, they are pretty standard across the writer world.
Discussions about word counts per story don’t really get much traction, but discussions about word count goals per day, week, month, or year do.
The newest writers or not-yet writers may ask, “How many words should I write per day?”
The answers they get cover the gamut of philosophies:
- At least 5,000 if you want to be taken seriously
- Aim for 2,000. That’s what Stephen King (or whoever) does.
- 500 or maybe 1000. Most people can fit that into their lives.
- Any number is fine as long as you write every day on a schedule.
- Don’t worry about word counts. Just write when the muse tells you to.
Some wise and more experienced writers answer the question with a question of their own: what do you want to achieve from your writing?
The time-sensitive word count goals of writers are as diverse as why they are writing, to begin with.
Someone who wants to make 5 figures a month within the next 6 months and stay at that self-publishing income forever cannot sit around waiting for the story fairy to sprinkle magic dust on them. (That doesn’t happen. I know. I’ve waited for her and she never showed up.)
Someone who just wants to get the stories out of their head and enjoy the process probably doesn’t need to worry about word counts at all. It’s a hobby. No knitter or stamp collector or bird watcher who does those things solely for their own enjoyment is going to FORCE themselves to make a scarf, mount a rare foreign stamp, or grab the binoculars when they do not want to.
The other common question in these discussions is: How do I improve my word count?
At it’s most basic, the answer to this is the same as if you wanted to improve anything else in your life. Practice, change your technique, work out to get stronger/faster/better, practice some more, develop focus on the goal, and practice.
- Learn how to touch type.
- Type faster.
- Consider using voice-to-text software like Dragon Naturally Speaking.
- Train the software so it can understand and keep up with you.
- Remove distractions.
- Write with a timer running.
- Record speeds.
- Track your results.
- Know what you’re going to write before you write it.
- Outline or make notes or a timeline etc.
- Keep a cheat sheet of names, places, eye colors, etc. handy.
Almost everyone can learn to type and write faster. Everyone has a finite amount of time. Writing faster in the time you have to write yields more finished story. It also gets you closer to “damn, this is GOOD!” sooner. That requires practice as well.