A Word About Counts


In order to be a winner in NaNoWriMo, you must write 50,000 words in a 30-day period. If you’ve ever been a participant, you understand how challenging this can be. This past year, because of circumstances beyond my control, I wasn’t able to see NaNoWriMo through to the end. I did, however, have a reasonably successful first couple of weeks. On the days I was focused, I averaged around 2,000 words. But a more realistic target for me is 1,200-1,500 words per day.

With 28 days in February, using the 1,500 number, understanding that there will be days when I get nothing accomplished, I’m setting my goal at 38,000 words.

1,500 x 25=37,500 (rounded up=38,000)

Chronicles’s Write-A-Thon is designed for you, the writer, to challenge yourself in a manner that fits your lifestyle. You determine your own goals. You decide how much support you want from fellow write-a-thoners. In a nutshell, the write-a-thon is an independent work-study program with all the support you might receive in a classroom-type atmosphere.

A Word About Increasing Your Counts

Write your heart out with these five things in mind:

1) Characters— Don’t stop at eye color. Describe your characters’ clothing, their mannerisms, and their other physical features.

2) Setting—Close your eyes and retreat to a quiet place in your mind. Feel the warmth of the sunshine on your shoulders or the sting of sleet against your face. Hear the birds singing or the waves lapping the shore.

3) Dialogue—Let your characters speak to one another at will.

4) Bring on the backstory—Use this time to write about your characters’ first day of kindergarten, or their first kiss, or what they ate for breakfast that morning. You may not use this information in your novel, but it will help you to understand your characters better. 

5) Let the exposition flow—Now is the time to talk it all out. 

Does this sound a little like cheating?

Yes. But don’t think about it that way. Your first draft is a process. You are becoming acquainted with your characters and settling into their environment and growing comfortable with your plot. In your first round of edits, you will combine sentences and delete whole paragraphs—maybe even chapters—but won’t it be wonderful to have so much great material to work with?

* As I said in an earlier post, this is a simple write-a-thon. There aren’t any fancy web badges or word count widgets. You are responsible for keeping up with your own word counts—the daily ones for some of the raffles and the total for the big Kindle Paperwhite giveaway at the end of the month. My goal is to provide inspiration and encourage discussion that will develop community.


What are your word count goals?

What methods do you use to flush out your characters?

How do you go about increasing your word counts?


Sunday, February 3—Pick the winner of the Super Bowl and your name will be entered in a drawing to win a $25.00 Amazon Gift Card. Check back in tomorrow and enter your name.

Monday, February 4—The person with the most words to date wins: A paperback copy of On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King.


10 thoughts on “A Word About Counts

    • Hello Avad Fan. Thanks for your participation. The drawing actually starts tomorrow, so check back in the morning for my Super Bowl post and enter your choice in the comments. Sorry for the confusion.

  1. It’s a *little* bit ambitious, but I’m aiming for 100k, because that’s the upper limit for a mainstream novel. I doubt I’ll get it, but it’s worth a shot.

    Personally, I prefer fleshing out my characters by taking them for a walk and figuring out how they would react to as many different situations as I can see/think of (also, it’s good for getting me out of the house and doing some exercise).

    I increase my word count by forcing myself to write for a set period of time, usually 15 minutes. I am allowed to stop the timer when I’m not writing but I’m not allowed to do a set task until I’ve finished the 15 minutes, usually have lunch. Nothing motivates my quite like food!

    • Ah, yes. Food. One of my favorites as well. I admire your spirit and your ambition. We are here to support you on your journey. I like to take my characters shopping, any excuse to look for a new pair of jeans. Interesting that you mention 15 minute increments. I’m planning a raffle around that concept next week. I’m going to try an experiment myself today using that strategy.

  2. I like to flush out my characters by thinking about their environment and what they are thinking right then. Kind of like walking into the middle of a conversation and trying to figure out what’s going on–that’s my POV as a writer–I think it makes it exciting and challenging. As far as word counts, I honestly don’t pay attention to them until I’m done with the scene. Then, I’ll go back and see what I wrote, but it’s important to me to get the scene right on paper first. Then, adjust word count later as needed.

    By the way, the 49ers totally have this Super Bowl!! 😀

    • I agree with you about the 49ers. But more on that tomorrow. I feel the same way about word counts, but in a first draft, I use it as a method to free flow write, which is hard for me because I’m always so tempted to go back and start editing.

  3. My goal on the high end is to have 70K. I would settle for 50K (and will possibly hit this goal).
    I actually outlined a novel for the first time this go round so I am eager to see how this will work out.

    In regard to increasing word counts, I participated in #writeclub Friday night and it was awesome. I did 1800 words in three 30 minute sprints and it really got me going. I am definitely going to try to do sprints all month long. This really helps me.

  4. Hi Ashley, firstly many thanks for setting this up – hopefully I’ll make it through to the end of Feb with something fairly legible. I think I’ll aim for 70K by month end – I’ve coped with NaNo a few times and want to push a bit more this time (even more so as I haven’t started yet!). I’m off to set up Scrivener with my project and daily targets right away ! : )

    • Another ambitious word count goal! I love this spirit.
      I’m trying Scrivener for the first time with my new WIP. Its taking some getting used to, but for the most part I like it. More on that in a later post.

      Be sure to check back tomorrow and enter the Super Bowl drawing to win at $25.00 gift card from Amazon.

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