Setting Some Quotas


Lets write something writing 4545949 1280 1024 300x240 Setting Some QuotasI’ve already made mention of how good I think James Scott Bell’s The Art of War for Writers is, but I’d like to put one of its recommendations into practice. To do so, I’m putting this up for public record.

Chapter 4 of the book talks about discipline as the first step toward victory. One area of discipline is to set writing goals and stick to them. I’ve already discovered this for myself, but in terms of writing there is a further piece of advice which Bell learned from Anthony Trollope.

Write a quota of words every week.

Rather than shoehorning a daily writing goal into a schedule which doesn’t always work out as planned, set a weekly quota based on six days of writing per week. That way, if writing one day goes awry, you can make it up on another day, plus have an extra day for making it up if absolutely necessary.

I still keep a daily record of the number of words I write, but my goal has shifted to a weekly rather than daily quota. Here are the quotas I’m setting for myself, broken up into two separate sets of circumstances.

While Working on Revisions:

  • Weekly word quota: 8,000 words (average 1,333 words per day, six days a week)
  • Weekly revision quota: 6 chapters (average 1 chapter per day, six days a week)
  • Weekly reading quota: 6 chapters (average 1 chapter per day, six days a week; these are writing improvement books, not reading for pleasure)
  • Weekly blogging quota: 3 posts per week minimum

While Not Working on Revisions:

  • Weekly word quota: 9,000 words (average 1,500 words per day, six days a week)
  • Weekly revision quota: 6 chapters (average 1 chapter per day, six days a week)
  • Weekly reading quota: 6 chapters (average 1 chapter per day, six days a week)
  • Weekly blogging quota: 3 posts per week minimum


  1. The pace of writing new content is only slightly reduced during revision work times. I’ll admit the revision/editing process is one I’ve not fully experienced before, so I may have to come back and adjust some quotas there. I finished my first novel just before NaNoWriMo started, and I set it aside until I finished my second novel just over this last weekend. I now have two 150,000+ word novels ready for revisions.
  2. I won’t beat myself up if I don’t reach the daily average. I used to feel bad about not making the daily goal, but since switching to this method, I’m finding myself surpassing the weekly quota by one to two thousands words fairly easily.
  3. I wonder if this method will work during NaNoWriMo? At first glance, it looks like it would, making the weekly goal 11,667 words per week. The pace during NaNo is frenzied anyway, but spreading it out over a week makes it seem more manageable. I’m concerned, however, that it takes away one of the largest motivating factors of the event—the daily pressure to produce.
  4. How does the brainstorming and planning of new stories work into all this? I’ve always wondered how other authors deal with the planning stages of their works? Are they still writing something everyday in addition to brainstorming, or do they count whatever notes they put down as counting toward a word count? Can anyone comment on this?

How do you set quotas for yourself? What methods or advice can you share that has helped you reach your writing goals.

Author: J. Mark Miller (@jmarkmiller)

J. Mark Miller has been a writer since his childhood days. His debut novel, The Foundlings, is available now on Amazon. J. Mark has been a minister, a musician, a school teacher, an avid blogger, and an amateur chef. He's become something of a self-publishing guru, learning how to create ebooks, book covers, and the ins and outs of distribution. If you need help getting your book design, layout, conversion, or distribution, visit J. and his wife at their site  Five J's Design to learn more. J. Mark's current project is a book of writing prompt entitled 250 Story Seeds. He posts fresh writing prompts every Wednesday at He's also a contributor to Five J's, a blog about raising lifelong learners. You can connect with J. Mark on Google+, Facebook, and Twitter.


  1. Hi J,
    I like the idea, but I also wonder how that will take away from the pressure to get in a word count daily and then you have a large, seemingly impossible, mountain to climb at the end of the week.

    Stephen King suggests 2000 words a day, 1000 for beginners in his On Writing book, but 1000 words takes over an hour, and sometimes I don’t make that time. I’ve found it takes about a half hour for 250 words unless I really know what I’m gonna write. However, I like a 250 daily goal because I can get that easily, and by that time I’m warmed up for at least double that.

    I’m also wondering about a daily word count when brainstorming. I’d say four pages of hand written notes is a quantity that leaves me with enough, but not too much, to mull over till next time or as preparation for writing a scene.

    That brings me to a problem I’ve had since I finished my first novel mid October. I’ve been “brainstorming” ever since, but about twice a month my idea changes to a new project and so I feel like I’ve got nothing to show for all my work the past 8 months. Have you ever had this problem between books? What do you do to get a word count?

    I’m trying short stories, but find they also require brainstorming time and I find it hard to brainstorm or write two separate ideas in a day.


    J. Mark Miller Reply:

    I suppose it all comes down to what you know you can do. On a normal week, the weekly quota I’ve set for myself is not all that hard to reach. While not easy, I don’t find it insurmountable. I currently write at a pace that makes NaNoWriMo numbers a piece of cake, and still leave myself enough time to revise and do the other things.

    You can see, however, I haven’t met all my goals. Blogging and reading for pleasure often get put aside.

    I know how you feel when it comes to story development. I do like a lot of folks, always keeping a notebook or laptop close at hand to write down ideas. When I’m in the midst of serious writing and want to develop something new at the same time, I’ll break up my available time into segments and force myself to more from one project to the other when I’m out of time. Personally, I don’t feel bad about not getting a word quota from one single project. I’ve usually got a novel going at the same time as a children’s book and some short stories. If I start something new, I just throw them into the mix, and whatever my total word count ends up being from the disparate projects, I count it al together.

    Thanks for stopping by. I’ve added your blog to my reader. Glad to meet another writer.


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