#atozchallenge Q is for Quotas for Writers

A core habit for successful writers to form, the setting of a daily writing quota for writing can take several forms. This post will discuss some, with examples.


Ernest Hemingway“The primary way writers keep momentum going is through the daily quota. Most successful fiction writers make a word goal and stick to it. A time goal can easily be squandered as you agonize over sentences or paragraphs”. – James Scott Bell. Source.

“Give yourself a quota: Can you produce twenty pages a week? Ten? Five? Some of us work better when we count words rather than minutes. If that sounds like you, then forget about time allotments. Show up for work every day, but focus on your output rather than on your time card”. via Julia Cameron http://juliacameronlive.com

Ernest Hemingway gave himself a quota of writing 500 words a day. Stephen King writes ten pages a day, every day – even over Christmas.

So, the verdict is in – time quotas are out (a process quota), word goals are in (a product quota). (BUT: a combination quota is a brilliant shiny thing to keep).

But don’t go right now to set that word count!

  • Obviously where you are free-writing, journaling or doing writing prompts or exercises as a warm-up, then setting a time limit on that work is beneficial.
  • And – some writers get on better with a process quota – they have the discipline to sit down for one, two,three hours, and produce something within that time, without worrying over wordcount.
  • Certain areas of the writer’s life don’t involve actual writing down words at all, but spending too much effort on these can impact productivity regarding the actual writing needs. Use a time limit quota per day (or regularly) for work effort on promotions, social networking, author platform building, reading, or editing.

Here’s an interesting post at Write Anon where the author tried out Word Count Quotas vs. Dedicated Writing Time, and came up with some pros and cons on each, but ended with a blended approach. I’m personally all for the blended approach – I set word count goals quite highly, but also work with a time goal (and with the P for Pomodoro post, you will see why it’s important to also have a time-based approach to writing tasks in the first place).

Why Set Quotas?

“The most critical thing a writer does is produce”. — Robert B. Parker

Simple – the discipline of setting quotas and meeting them, especially daily, means that our writing can improve, and we will produce something that we can sell (hopefully). Daily writing quotas of certain word counts means that we are training our muse to show up – every darned time. Over time, our capacity to write more and more – and more easily – increases. We are practicing and replicating our discipline, just like any athlete.

The Writer’s Core Habit Pack on Setting Quotas

WCHP Writing Quotas sheetIn the attached 3 page PDF I have detailed the following steps, included website links and quotes, and examples from several well known writers. Download the WCHP Setting Quotas worksheet.

The Eight Steps for Setting Writing Quotas

  1. Know what you’re aiming for
  2. Set SMART word and time goals
  3. Go Public (if you wish) with your Quotas
  4. Keep Motivated with your Quota Habit and Challenge Yourself
  5. If you miss your Quota, Make Up for It
  6. Log Your Progress
  7. Assess and Adjust your Quotas
  8. Reward Yourself

Further Reading:

2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love

The Art of War for Writers: Fiction Writing Strategies, Tactics, and Exercises

AtoZ2013 _thumb

A-to-Z-Core-Habits3-_thumb.jpgThis blog post participated in April 2013’s Blogging from A to Z Challenge, along with many other blogs on subjects as diverse as writing, foodie blogs or mummy blogs.

This blog post is part of a themed series or pack on Writer’s Core Habits. I acronym this as WCH or WCHP © . Do a search for these tags, and you will find more in the series.

No affiliate links are used in these posts.

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