With iAchieve offering a Young Writer’s Workshop in July that will hopefully inspire many children out there to explore their creativity, I thought it would be interesting to examine the work of several legends in the world of literature. Most assume if you are trying to make a go at it as a writer, you must be writing thousands of words a day. However, that is not always the case! Here are some of the daily word counts of famous writers that will demonstrate that it is quality, not quantity, that matters.
Theodor Seuss Geisel, otherwise known from his pen name Dr. Seuss, wasn’t originally sure he could make it as a children’s author. Instead, he was concentrating on creating advertising, both with slogans and his skills as an artist, as a career so he could make a living. To think how things would be so different if he didn’t attempt to become a writer! While his daily word count is not completely known, The Cat in the Hat took him nine months to write and it only had 236 words in it. It is just another example of an author selecting each word perfectly and not worrying about the length of the material, but rather the content.
Ernest Hemingway’s adventurous real life is just as interesting, if not more so, than any of his books. It seems he squeezed a whole lot of living into his 61 years before he passed away in 1961. While he was actively working on one of his tales, he would usually write about 500 words a day and it would take him anywhere from two to five hours. This schedule definitely worked out very well for him as he is considered one of the best writers of all time.
It is hard to fathom nowadays what impact Mark Twain had on the world around him in the last few decades of his life. Well known for novels such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer that tackled societal issues that are still being examined today, Twain wrote as if he could still remember perfectly what it meant to be a young boy in the south. Twain was, for many years, perhaps the most famous living person on the face of the earth with the press clamoring over themselves to land the latest interview or quote.
One of his quotes, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started”, could directly apply to would-be writers that keep putting off working on their craft. Twain on average would write between 1,400 and 1,800 words a day. Much of the time though, it depended on the location he was working. “In 1897, when we were living in Tedworth Square, London, and I was writing the book called “Following the Equator” my average was eighteen hundred words a day; here in Florence, (1904), my average seems to be fourteen hundred words per sitting of four or five hours.”
Stephen King is known to be one of the most prolific novelists that has ever lived. And his books can physically be quite huge as well. Never short for words, if you are carrying around three or four of King’s novels, you are probably going to get a pretty good workout. Many are well over 1,000 pages.
Because of this, you may believe that King must write several thousand words a day. But this isn’t the case… most of the time. He sets a daily goal of writing about 2,000 words a day. In addition, in his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, King says three months time is enough to finish most novels. It is the perfect time so the writer can keep the right frame of mind for the entire novel. Still, he has been known to go on marathon writing sessions as well. For example, King wrote The Running Man in one week and it is estimated that the novel is about 70,000 words long.