I've read that Ernest Hemingway limited himself to exactly 500 words per day. I try to get at least 1000 myself. Every day, seven days a week.
How about you?
And do you think word count is ever an indicator of quality? Is it probable to crank out, say, 5000 words a day and still produce something that's worth reading?
I am slow. Besides, I have days when words don't come readily, and others where I can work for a couple of hours without a break. Next, I need more time for revision. I do that as I go on. Then comes proof-reading. Then come assorted fixes (I don't work from a plan and frequently have to go back to insert something). However, I'm working a bit faster these days. I hope to finish two novels per year instead of just one.
This raises the question of what constitutes a body of words--draft quality or polished? I'm an endless reviser, and the thousand words I might put down (by longhand) might, in subsequent days or even weeks, become a mere couple of hundred after several revisions. So how many words worthy of term did I write?
That said, I suspect that the most productive and successful among us are those that commit to a minimum word count, however it's defined, virtually every day. I think Jack London's thousand is a pretty reasonable goal.
I don't believe speed is an indicator of quality (good or bad) ever. As I.J. said, some projects the words seem to fly onto the page, others you struggle to get every sentence down.
I'm a planner, so when I write I've got a very good idea of what I want the scene to look like; how it opens, what happens, who's there and how it will end. So I typically can write between 500 to 750 words an hour, and can usually write four to five hours of prose before burning out for the day. So a typical (good) writing day for me is between 2500 and 3500 words a day.
Yes, that seems to prove that working from a plan speeds up the actual writing.
I think the faster you write the more likely it is that the output turns out to be, ahem, not something that I'd prefer to read. That is to say, it becomes less likely that just the right word (think Twain's lightning and the lightning bug saying) gets chosen, again and again and again. And it's not just words that suffer but plot, character, voice, description, etc.
That being said, there are freaks who can produce top quality stuff (using industry expert opinion as a measure of quality writing, rather than sales, which is a measure that makes no artistic sense to me; because if you extend that argument then McDonalds serves the best food in the world because they've served several billion customers) at a very high clip. It's just that by definition there aren't very many of them.
Think of a guy like Franzen (one book every nine years or so) versus, say, Nora Roberts, who produces about four books a year under various names, I understand. Both are authors but obviously playing very, very different games.
It took me nine years to write my first novel. I learned the craft on that book, and I would lay it down for a year or more at a time two or three times. But I wrote the last 52 pages in one day to finish the first draft in some sort of pent up, orgasmic explosion. My fingers on the keyboard couldn't keep up with my thoughts. I don't think I could come close to a day like that again, knowing more now about the craft...
I do all my writing on my breaks from my day job, so I only get about an hour a day in. I aim for 1000 words per day (Mon-Fri), but 700 is more usual. My main problem is a serious backlog of ideas. As of this minute, I've got over thirty books plotted out, just waiting their turn.
If I could earn enough to live by the pen, I could up my daily total to 3000 easily. Until then, at least I have a system to work within, which I find helpful.
I've changed since NaNowhatever. I write my first draft as fast as possible. My continuity has improved. The the rest of the drafts I do slowly. Seems to work for me. Oh, during the first draft I go all out and do 2000 to 2500 a day. I've tried it with one novel and two short stories..
When writing a first draft, I write a single-spaced every work day, and two pages Saturday and Sunday. I do some crafting, but the point is to get something I can work with. Each subsequent draft will work primarily on specific things (continuity, dialog, descriptions, etc.) with specific goals set for each day. I can do more, but I can't do less.
Then I take off from Memorial Day through Labor Day to keep from getting burned out.
I try to do a solid first draft in 4-5 months. one week write 1k a day for 4 days, then the next week edit and revise those pages to perfection. Repeat.
I'm a bit all over the place as far as word counts go. I'd like to write 1000/day, but in realty it doesn't usually happen unless I can get a good block of at least a few hours, preferably before 11pm. My brain tends to go to mush after that, and then there is no telling what the result will be (like now for example, it's a little after midnight and I can tell I'm rambling).
I can usually get a good 200-300 words out in my train commute each morning, unless of course the person beside me starts reading over my shoulder (nothing gets on my nerves like this), in which case I'll have a burning desire to strangle them, but will settle for shutting down the laptop and giving them daggers... (more rambling, time for bed).
just start writing about them in an unflattering light. "It was then Sam realized someone was looking over his shoulder. Not content to be impolite, the visual eavesdropper had an undefined sense of fashion and hygiene, and breath like the sweat off an elephant's balls."
That should stop it. Or energize the morning enough to give you material for another story.