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?

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I think it completely up to the individual writer. There's no hard and fast rule for daily word counts. The main thing is that you write every day, seriously, focused and to the best of your abilities. I average 1000-2000 w for fiction, but occasionally have 4000w days. For non fiction books I am much faster, up to 5000w a day when I am on a roll.

Many things contribute to one's ability to write quality text day in and day out. Experience, publishing history, and field of expertise all contribute to how much of a word count you can roll out.

Taking the lead from Hemingway, or any other writer for that matter, is nonsense. Every writer has his own rhythm, working method, time management etc.

Taking the lead from Hemingway, or any other writer for that matter, is nonsense. Every writer has his own rhythm, working method, time management etc.

Everyone's process is different, but don't you think, for the most part, writers who take the time to carefully craft each sentence--assuming they have some game in the first place--generally end up with better prose than writers who don't?

In a word, Jude. No.

I do not believe quality is determined by how long it takes a writer to write or how many times they re-write and re-work their sentences. I believe good writing is good story telling. Tell a good story using basic, good grammar and vocabulary, and you'll be a good writer.

I believe writers need to write more to get better--more short stories, more novellas, more novels to get better, not rewrite the same story, paragraph, sentence, and words over and over and over until they get it "perfect." Won't ever happen.

Write your story to the best of your ability at the time, send it out and write the next one.  Over and over. While you do that, study craft, read how-to books and read other writers who write in the genre, style you wish to write in to improve, to learn what and how they do what they do.

Today's popular fiction market isn't interested in English lit. classical prose, they want good stories told in an interesting way. And they want a lot of it. Writing fast will improve your ability to write well and improve your chances of being able to make a living at it.

Now that all said, do I recommend you don't edit, re-write, rework? No. For me, my best work comes after I've written four drafts. From a detailed script-style outline, I write a first prose draft, do a second complete re-write, then a third heavy edit draft, a fourth light edit for spell check-grammar errors and then its off to my editor. After which, I go through her changes to see if I agree or not, make those changes which I do agree with (which is usually about 90-95 % of them) and the story is done to the best of my ability at that time.

If I tinker with it any more than that experience  has taught me I then start to mess it up, make bad changes, take the live out of it and deaden the voice.

"Tell a good story using basic, good grammar and vocabulary, and you'll be a good writer."

 

I know I want more that this from the books I read.

 

And I want more than this from my writing.

No.  I don't think good writers work on each sentence any more than good musicians obsess on each note.

I think  they express a flow of some creative juice or something like that.

Nobody I've talked to thinks like that.

Yes, I suppose taking time can make for better writing, but some writers simply don't have it. In order to make a living I have to create a steady output of material (a large chunk of my earnings comes from non fiction) and there's often no time for editing. I think the lack of time is made up, at least partially, by experience. Writing journalism for many years definitely helps my routine of writing crime fiction. And I do of course edit and rewrite, numerous times. But having this or that word count in mind is not really helpful.

I don't think speed necessarily indicates anything. If you are really comfortable with your writing voice then increasing your output will not decrease your quality. But everyone is different. William Faulkner claimed to have written As I Lay Dying in six weeks. But then, he lied a lot so who knows if that's true or not. 

I think consistency is more important than daily output. I've had many 5,000 word days, and several 10,000 word days, but I can't sustain it and then I'll go half a year without writing anything. That's no good. It would be much better to write 500 words a day every day. 

And you know, even if writing faster does mean lower quality, it also means you can get to the second draft faster, which means you can more quickly improve the quality.

Hi, J.D.  The Faulkner comment is fascinating. How do we know any author ever tells the truth publicly? Let's face it, they have a business to run and an image to project.

Hi, John. Long time no see. I hope all is well.

I agree. I get through my first drafts relatively quickly--the current WIP a notable exception--so I can roll up my sleeves and get to work on the editing. To me, first drafts are a little like impulsive thoughts; it's what we do with and about them that matters.

Today's popular fiction market isn't interested in English lit. classical prose, they want good stories told in an interesting way. And they want a lot of it. Writing fast will improve your ability to write well and improve your chances of being able to make a living at it.

Personally, I can't read sloppy prose, no matter how good the story is, and the editors and agents I've heard from here and elsewhere seem to feel the same.

On one of my other threads here, Neil Nyren (Putnam) said:

First, there are the givens -- when a manuscript crosses my desk, I'm looking for good plot, good characters, and, in answer to the title of this discussion, yes, good writing. After that, there are three things:

I want a story that I haven't read a million times before (by this point in my career, I mean that almost literally). But if it is something that's familiar, it needs to be done so damn well that it's irresistible.

I want to feel that the author is in control of his book from the very first page -- if the reader senses that he's in good hands, he'll sit back and let the author take him wherever the author wants. If it feels wobbly, you've lost him. And he's got to sustain it all the way through -- there are plenty of times that I've gotten to a certain point in the book and I start a mental chant: "Don't screw it up, don't screw it up, don't screw it up." The chant doesn't always work, though.

And the third thing is kind of nebulous (and thus frustrating for writers to hear, I know), and I suspect the substance of it is different for every individual editor -- I want...something extra. Something that separates it from the crowd. For me in particular, it's often a certain kind of intensity that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up, my pulse race faster. That's when I start getting really serious about a book.

So yes, the writing matters. Therefore, it only makes sense that authors who obsess over their prose a bit are ultimately more readable than writers who don't.

But what if they are morons?  Or have nothing to say.  I've seen both things going on.  Somebody talking about how they've been over word by word, but the sample they show you is boring junk.

Doesn't makes sense at all, I'd say.

For one thing, I think it identifies people who are not "naturals".   Wannabes, over-compensators.  People insecure about what they're doing.

Just my impression.  You see the same thing in sports. See the same thing in modeling and acting.

Seems to me you see people on writing websites talking about obsession being the ticket.  But you don't see the successful writers advising that.  

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