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The Benefits of Daily Word Quotas 

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Are you thinking of trying to hit a daily word quota as you tackle that novel? I first embraced this strategy when I participated in National Novel Writing Month in 2004, and I haven’t really looked back.

It’s not for everyone, of course (and that’s perfectly OK!), but if you’re curious about daily word quotas and the possible benefits you might experience, read on.

Here’s how sticking to a word quota has helped me.

  • It provides a steady rhythm. Writing often involves getting into a groove, and by having a daily word count, you can extend this groove from one day to the next.
  • It teaches discipline. Inspiration is probably two percent of the writing battle, while discipline is the other 98 percent (yes, I’m ripping off that famous adage).
  • It gives you a realistic roadmap for reaching your goal.

Writing a full-blown novel can feel overwhelming (hell, it is overwhelming at times), but if you can break it down into manageable chunks, it doesn’t feel so bad.

Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Consider each daily word quota another mile marker, one that gets you closer to the finish line.

  • It helps keep your internal critic at bay.

Whereas when you sit your butt down every day to crank out 1,000 words (or 500 or 250 or 2,000 or whatever your quota is), you can ignore your critic because you have a job to do.

  • It helps you treat writing like a job instead of this precious thing. I know, I know. A “job” is such a dirty word. Where’s the love? Writing a novel is special and wonderful, after all. And that’s true. But if you ever want to do something with that novel—like sell it—you will need to learn the business side of things. Nothing prepares you better for that mindset than by showing up every day to your office and sitting down to work.

So there you have it—the benefits I’ve personally experienced from word quotas. But here’s a secret: I don’t follow word quotas all the time, and the number I try to hit changes, depending on the project or how much time I have. For example, if I know it’s going to be a busy month, but I’m itching to finish my current work-in-progress, I might shoot for a daily quota of 500 words. I can usually exceed that number, even when I’m busy, but giving myself a lower number also gives me a break in case I can’t.

Bottom line: do whatever works for you. It’s your novel. It’s your process. You got this.

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Robyn Bradley is a copy bitch by day and novelist ninja by night. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University, and she won a short story award in 2007 for “A Touch of Charlotte.”

Her work has appeared in FictionWeekly.comThe Breakwater Review, and Writer’s Digest (under her pen name E.T. Robbins), among other places. When she’s not writing or sleeping, Robyn enjoys watching Law & Order marathons, drinking margaritas, and determining how many degrees really separate her from George Clooney. Robyn is currently working on her third novel. Visit www.robynbradley.com to learn more.

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