A number of beginning writers have asked me how many words they should crank out each day. The truth is, the number doesn't matter. Getting faster as you practice doesn't matter. What Isaasc Asimov did when he was writing doesn't matter. What DOES matter is how well you write. Thirty words a day of perfectly crafted prose beat out thirty thousand words of hastily scribbled crap any day.
You may have heard the admonition to spit the words out while they're fresh in your mind and get them down on paper because you can always go back and edit them later. My advice: Don't buy it. If you were capable of going back and editing them later, you'd most likely be working as a professional proofreader or editor for some major magazine or book publisher and making a damned good living at it. I think it's safe to assume you're not.
The plain truth is, you need to do the best you can possibly do in any given time frame. A day, a week, a month—hell, a year, if you're comfortable with that. Take your time, and get it right.
And, always edit as you write. Put down a paragraph, go back, and refine, rewrite, and edit it while it's still fresh in your mind. And, then do it again. Put down another graf, and do the same. When you've finished that chapter, put it aside for a day or more so you can approach it again with a clear mind. Then refine/rewrite/edit it again before you go on to the next chapter. The same throughout the book. (Or article, letter, or short story--it really doesn't matter.)
The takeaway: DON'T just slam down words for the sake of throwing syllables at a computer screen or tallying up word count. DO it right, or don't do it at all. If you want to be a writer, a professional writer, a published author, do it right.
And forget about all this nonsense about word count. No two people write at the same pace or to the same degree of literary "perfection." The truth is, I didn't post this blog until I went back and re-read it three, four, and then five times, making refinements each time I did. Because I know that's what's important.
It's the finished product that counts. Not the scorecard.
Do It Right. No matter how long it takes. Do It Right.
D. J. Herda is author of the new eBook series of writing advice, About Writing Right, available at Amazon and at fine booksellers everywhere.