Down for the Page Count

Author Laurell Hamilton writes in her blog:

There are two main methods that writers choose for deciding how to measure their productivity on a book. One, is page count, how many pages you can do per day. Two, is at this time of day you sit down and you can’t get up again for two hours, or four hours, or whatever. Or a variant of method two, is whatever time you sit down at your desk you work for two hours, and until two hours are up, you cannot leave your desk. Yesterday was a day that reminded me why I’ve always done page count and never hours at the desk…

Laurell is a "Page Count" person because her day is too hectic and unpredictable to schedule a block of uninterrupted writing time. Me, I don’t use either method. I just ask myself if I feel I’ve done good work today… or at least given it my best effort. (Or, in the case of a TV script, at the rate I am going, will the teleplay be ready in time for Prep?)

I don’t think that five pages of shit or eight hours spent staring at the screen until your eyes are bloodshot really measures anything. For me, it’s quality, not quantity, whether you’re measuring pages or hours. What about you?

7 thoughts on “Down for the Page Count”

  1. I do word count, about 1000 words. I can go short if I feel there’s a good stopping point, but damn if I don’t feel great when I go beyond.
    Yeah, I know. Sometimes that means I’ve written 4 pages of crap, but chances are, I wouldn’t know it was crap until I went back to read it later anyway.
    But then it’s all mindset, really. I know people who, if they tried to write the way I do, would go mad.

  2. With most of my experience in short stories, I write as much as I can imagine clearly. I stop when the picture starts to blur. When I feel the need to be more careful, I hold myself to one scene each sitting; even if I feel I can write more, I tell myself to stop and study each scene.
    I don’t measure length so much as completeness. Some ideas need more words to be complete; others need fewer.

  3. I’ve tried both of those methods, and lean toward the page count, but even then I find it too arbitrary. I finally decided to make it a task-based measurement:
    “I need to write this movie review today.”
    “I need to get through this and this scene.”
    “I need to plow through this much research.”
    “I need to put aside all creative writing and prepare 30 queries.”
    This allows me to realistically gauge progress against pressing needs and available resources, instead of feelin beholden to an unchangeable standard that is some days unachievable due to time constraints, and other days laughably easy (and thus a temptation to fritter away the rest of my available time).

  4. When I was a freelance journalist, I had a huge calender board on the wall charting the progress of various articles, queries, etc. In those days, you didn’t get paid until publiction or, in most cases, 90 dates after your article was submitted. So I was always keeping a running tally, looking three months ahead, to see whether I’d booked enough assignments to pay my bills. I was always working toward a bottom-line financial goal. Each day I set out to a) send one query letter or b) set up at least one or two interviews for an article or c) complete writing an article or d) conduct an interview or two or some or part of all of the above. I also kept bankers hours… I’d sit down at my desk at 9 and 5… or go out and conduct intervews.

  5. Page count for me, but I’m less concerned about how many pages I get on an individual day. I know how many pages I need to write each month, so as long as I’m on a pace to accomplish that, I’m okay.

  6. I have four months to write each Diagnosis Murder book… so I figure I have to write about 100 manuscript pages a month… 25 a week… and so on. Writing the books, like TV scripts, tends to go faster after the half-way point. You get into a groove… well, at least I do.
    On TV scripts, ACT ONE seems to take forever, ACT TWO comes a little easier, and the last two acts get written in no time at all.


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