Lesson 3 of 12

The Two Word Count Targets

There are two word counts you need to consider:

  1. The Proposed Word Count for your book
  2. Your Daily Word Count (we’ll discuss this later)

Proposed Word Count


Most bestselling authors we interviewed set an overall word count goal. Ask yourself: How long should my novel be? This figure can change whilst you write, but without a figure, you have no target. That is like planning a car journey with no set destination or time limit. The result? You end up driving around lost (and miss dinner)!

A proposed word count is just that - a finger in the air. Don’t overthink this. Also, don’t underestimate the power of picking a target. With a word count you can get in the car and start driving North and roughly know how long the journey will be. Without a word count, you drive around with no sense of an end in sight.


When choosing your word count, we are talking about your draft word count. Your draft word count is how many words you write on your first draft. For most authors, it is usual to cut words during the edit process. When we wrote Back to Reality our first draft came in at a whopping 140,000. We ended cutting 50,000 words (including the whole first chapter), to end up with a 90,000 word novel. That is quite unusual. We’ll leave it to the master, Stephen King, to guide you on draft word count.


Stephen King says it is typical to cut around 10% of your words in your second revision. So if you are aiming for a 70,000 word published book, your word count for your first Academy book should be 77,000 (or 110% of the second revision word count). Cutting words is essential to tighten the writing and improve the pace of your story.