You may not have heard of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which is in November every year. It really should be International NoWriMo, as thousands of people all over the world now join in. The idea is that you write 50,000 words in the month of November, which means around 1666 words per day, plus a couple of extra (your title?). On the NaNo site, you can join up for free, and you get your own page where you can log in, record the number of words you've written and watch the graph rise.
I haven't done it for a couple of years, mainly because November is our major time of year for marking and providing feedback on student work, and writing creatively just doesn't work in the available brainspace left (which is usually zero). I would love to attempt it this year, except for one thing - I don't have anything of 50,000 words to write. I'm working on something at the moment, and am about 28,000 words into it, but as it's a children's novel, I'm thinking it'll be finished by another 8,000 words or so. I could revise something else, but the idea of NaNo is that it's new work.
Mind you, the requirement that it be a new novel is not supposed to stop you. You're supposed to just write and write and write, and see what comes out. It's why there is a companion book called No Plot? No Problem. But I don't really work like that anymore. I've stuffed up too many novels by not working out first what they are going to be about. All the same, it's tempting...
NaNo or not, word count tallies are useful at any time. Although I bribe myself to write by saying "Just one page", I'm disappointed if I end up with less than 1,000 words. It's a mental target that makes me feel good when I reach it. 2,000 words makes me feel brilliant! When you're in the middle of a novel and starting to flag, wondering if you'll ever finish, and what on earth were you thinking anyway, looking at your word count can make you feel so much better. Wow, have I written that much?
Setting a word count target per week can be useful too. Some days we just can't get to the computer when life butts in, but if we can catch up the next day, and head for that word count, we don't feel so bad. The trick is to find the right target for you. 10,000 words a week may well be too many. 500 is way too few (you knew that, right?). I aim for 4,000. It's realistic, it's an amount that will get me many steps closer to a finished draft, and it's also a number that I know I can exceed, all going well.
Do you have word targets? Or do you count hours? Or pages? Are you doing NaNo this year? Why? Share some thoughts with us.