What James Scott Bell Taught Me About Daily Word Quotas

James Scott Bell is one of my all-time writing heroes. Along with Donald Maass, and Christopher Vogler. The trio of them make up the Story Masters. Oh, if I could only get the Story Masters Workshop to come to Los Angeles. I know we could fill every seat. Anyone else with me?

But back to James Scott Bell. Of course I follow him on Twitter and he often tweets about meeting or exceeding his daily word count goals. I’ve never had a daily word count goal, but after seeing his tweets month after month, I thought maybe I should give it a try.

So last week I decided my daily word quota would be 500 words a day on my rewrite. 500 words. Isn’t that a ridiculously low number, you ask? Well, maybe, but I am a wife and a mother of young children, and I know I can’t write thousands of words consistently each day. So I picked 500. And you know how rewrites are – write 500 words and delete 1200. That’s just the way it works.

But anyway, something interesting happened. Instead of wasting time staring at my manuscript wondering what to do with a scene, I immediately started writing because I had a daily goal to meet. I actually used time more efficiently. I knew when I reached 500 words, I could stop. I ended up writing over 700 words before I knew it.

You know endorphins are released when you check off an item on a to-do list? Same thing happens when you reach your daily writing goal. I felt wonderful! Accomplished. I’d done it. I’d moved forward in my rewrite. I could do this. If I did this every day, I’d finish my rewrite sooner rather than later.

Now, I reserve the right to write more than 500 words a day if I want to – and hopefully I will. But how freeing and wonderful it feels on those tough or busy days to meet my goal and then move on to other tasks, knowing I’ve already met my writing goal.

Lessons Learned:

  1. A daily writing goal sharpens my focus
  2. A daily writing goal saves me time (or keeps me from wasting time)
  3. A daily writing goal will get my draft or rewrite accomplished faster (one step at a time, one daily word quota met at a time)

So a huge THANK YOU goes out to James Scott Bell for tweeting about his daily word count goals. I have a feeling it’s going to make a huge difference in my writing life.

Do you have writing heroes who’ve inspired you in a special way? I’d love to hear about them in the comments section.

Happy Writing!