Katia Raina

The Magic Mirror

Not A Daily Writer 2: On Superheroes Versus Champions

This is a follow-up post to my last rather embarrassing admission of not being a daily word count superhero anymore. Okay, maybe you guys didn’t think it was embarrassing, but I did!

Allow me now to present the other side of the issue. Because ever since the last post, I’ve been thinking…

It is true that when I take a day or two off — say a weekend — my writing generally benefits in some ways. I can feel it; I come back to the computer refreshed. And, as I said in the last post, I hate it when the word count quota looms over the story like a chore, as though words were dirty dishes.

On the other hand, I took last week off from writing fiction. I focused instead on getting all my other Vermont College of Fine Arts packet work out of the way — two essays, a new outline, a streamlined synopsis. When I returned to the manuscript yesterday and today, even while I felt refreshed, I realized my fiction writing muscles have softened. I was more relaxed, yes, looser maybe, which is good. I produced some pretty prose, and poetry too. But the pretty stuff refused to add up to a narative . I felt overwhelmed, disoriented. Suddenly I found myself looking around like a guest inside my own work-in-progress.

And now, Ray Bradbury’s 1k-a-day advice (from his Zen And The Art of Writing) keeps nagging at me. Apparently, Mark Twain did it, too, though it took him an entire working day to come up with his 1,000. Hemingway, they say, stuck to the more modest 500. But what of Stephen King, with his 2k-a-day sprints? (On Writing). And that all started back when he was still a teacher!

I know. I know.

Here is a cool, inspiring and funny post about famous word counts (or sometimes, lacks thereof): http://algonquinredux.com/daily-word-count-output-of-my-favorite-writers/

This post only proves what I still believe — it’s an individual game more than a game of numbers. It’s in some ways, a hopeless debate, isn’t it, like the benefit of plotting versus writing by the seat of the pants?

I am sorry to keep blogging about this. I guess I am searching for the answer.

I am now — and possibly forever — we never stop learning do we? — but especially now, a shameless student of writing. I am in the MFA program, after all. It’s all about figuring things out. Here is a new thing I’m wondering: is it possible to one day grow into a word count?

I know I am not ready for shackles of a daily quota. And I am not sure if I’ll ever be willing to give up my writing-free Saturdays, plus even an occasional vacation. For me, it’s important to step away, to be in the world — or writing will suck me dry, I have learned that. On the other hand, a writer must be careful not to step out too far.

This semester it was important for me to slow down. I imagine that if I didn’t give them up, the word counts would have interfered with that. But now that the semester is drawing to a close, (one more packet to go!), the idea of daily writing (except Saturdays), after some reflection, is one I would like to keep striving toward. Maybe not at once. Maybe this time, I’ll be smarter about it. Go slower.

But I can try again. And again. I can keep trying, can’t I? Until the day when whatever quota I decide on, feels like home.

Credit: Chiot's Run via Flickr

Credit: Chiot’s Run via Flickr

Maybe it’s not about being a superhero. Maybe it’s more about training. Stephen King and Mark Twain and Ray Bradbury, they are champions. Champions practice. Lots. So can I.

I’ll keep you guys posted! 😉


November 19, 2013 - Posted by | VCFA Adventures, Writing Mirror |


  1. Katia, I love your honesty. And I wish I could give you a hug! Sure, it’s possible to grow into a word count. I used to write 1K words A WEEK. Then I got to the point where I could write 500 words a day (hey, I didn’t know Hemingway did that!). Now I don’t worry about the actual word count; I just write. But it often ends up close to 1K words a day. Knowing that I could do it — that I could finish a novel — made it flow better. And I don’t usually write on the weekends. That’s family time.

    I feel as if I will always be a student of writing. I’m on novel #4 and I’m still a newbie in so many ways! I read recently that Jack Gantos revises his novels as much as one hundred times. When I heard that I looked at my mere seven or eight drafts per novel as just the beginning.

    Comment by Joanne Fritz | November 19, 2013 | Reply

    • That is the attitiude my VCFA teachers take too. They are so accomplished, authors of multiple books, many across genres, award winners, Newberry and NBA finalists, etc. And yet they always approach writing with the eyes of a student, always learning, I guess all of us are. As for that hug, right back at you 🙂

      Comment by Katia Raina | November 19, 2013 | Reply

  2. I know people who are pretty successful with the word-count impetus, but I haven’t felt it would be right for me. I’ll be interested to see your future posts on this subject.

    Comment by Rosi | November 20, 2013 | Reply

    • Yay, great! It will be my pleasure, Rosi 😉

      Comment by Katia Raina | November 20, 2013 | Reply

  3. I think it’s possible if it clicks with you. Some people count words and some people go by daily/weekly/monthly/etc goals.

    You’re working on writing in some way by being in this program.

    Comment by Medeia Sharif | November 22, 2013 | Reply

    • Right, M, even the essays and the synopsis, it all counts, doesn’t it? By the way, I am finished with my essays. Next up, a critical thesis! But I will talk about it in one of my upcoming posts.

      Comment by Katia Raina | November 22, 2013 | Reply

  4. Even a well written sentence beats a blank page any day. Efforts large or small…It’s all good.

    Comment by darlenebeckjacobson | November 27, 2013 | Reply

    • That’s another great perspective, Darlene. You’re right! After an intese last week, today was a clean-the-house Thankdgiving-prep no-writing day. Let me see about that sentence, then 🙂 Thanks!

      Comment by Katia Raina | November 27, 2013 | Reply

      • And, my sentence just turned into 923 words, somehow!

        Comment by Katia Raina | November 27, 2013

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