How useful are targets?

I just discovered the ‘set target’ feature in Scrivener. Pretty interesting. But I wonder how people have made use of it?

Personally, I have days where I can cram out multi-1000 words without a problem, and other days where 200 is good—because I’m doing a lot of research, etc.

So are daily targets feasible, or is it only applicable to certain types of projects? I’m writing a thesis, btw.

I find word count targets very useful for structuring documents, allocating word counts for individual sections when I know the final word count of the finished piece. In the ten days I have been using Scrivener v1.01, I have been adding the target to the document name, in brackets, so that I could remember what weight each section had in the overall scheme of things (academic essays); v1.02 lets me do this in a more sensible, integrated way, and I’m really pleased with it. I have done a fair amount of non-fiction writing of various sorts, and word count targets have been highly suitable for some projects/documents/sections but not others. It depends on the task, really. I wouldn’t use the session word count for that sort of work, but I would use the document and project word counts as a guide, even if I change or abandon them as the project nears completion.

Where I would use the session word count is for fiction. I haven’t tried any fiction writing with Scrivener yet, but in my previous abortive fiction attempts I have set minimum daily targets (for example, I will not stop until I have done 750 words, even if it is rubbish), and I can see this being a very useful feature for me when I finally pluck up the courage to confront my creative muse again. I have always wanted to write fiction, but I lack discipline and confidence in equal measure, and am inclined to give up half-way through projects where with non-fiction I would battle on! Maybe this time, with Scrivener to help me…

Sorry - not much help. But I will be using this feature in different ways, according to the type of document I’m writing.

Months ago, we had a long discussion about word counts. Opinion was divided as to whether quantity or quality mattered more in writing. It seemed that academic and nonfiction writers desired word counts more than movie or fiction writers, but that was not a hard and fast rule. Eiron was notably eloquent in that thread. Which matters more, form or content? Perhaps the best answer is neither and both.

I can understand that academics prefer word count, as that is usually specified by the assignment. But I’m not an academic, even though I’m writing a paper in it, and think that much more can be said in 10 pages, vs. a 100 page thesis. I guess that comes from my background in writing and reading business plans where most high paper-weight plans are 90% fluff.

For fiction, it’s different, and if I ever achieve my dream of writing a science-fiction book, I’ll go for 1000 pages + That’s where I’ll probably try and emulate Siren, setting a certain word count per day, no matter the quality.

Of course, much of a writer’s work is research and that’s where daily targets doesn’t work so well.

I’ll also read the other post on word count, thanks howarth. I searched for targets before I think, which is why I didn’t find it.

Magazines always ask you a maximum length for a review, so this feature is useful to warn you when you have already reched the limit.
Unfortunately, Scrivener does allow you to set targets in words. In Italy they ask you for a certain number of characters, so it is a shame Keith has not yet implemented this feature.


Whether or not you need these depends a lot on your writing and life style. I was delighted to discover their existence a couple of days ago. I’ve got a book due in a few months, and in order make sure I finish more or less on time, I set myself a daily word count, 500 words. I got the idea from Graham Greene, who was remarkably prolific despite leading a pretty dissolute life. If I thought Now I have to write a chapter, I’d probably feel overwhelmed and discouraged. As long as I’m thinking I just have to get out the next 500 words I can keep on going. And it is just amazing how this adds up when you do it every day. I liken it to the fabled miracle of compound interest.

On the other hand, a good friend of mine and I share an agent, and she was marvelling at how entirely different our methods are. He writes only under pressure, in huge bursts of words, fueled by Chinese takeout, deep into the night. And he is a terrific writer.

As for the quality/quantity issue, surely folks here are familiar with Anne Lamott’s great advice book for writers, Bird by Bird, and her theory of s—y first drafts? Even if the 500 words I write today are not so great, I expect to be rewriting/editing anyway and at least I’ve got something to work with. It’s a lot easier to turn some writing into better writing than it is to turn no writing into some writing.

Nicely put! :slight_smile: And the best way to deal with the so-called writer’s block also.

I am thinking that Scrivener’s new project, session and document word count targets will be especially handy for those Nanowrimo-ers out there.


Love it. And for me very true. My own axiom is, “First get it down. Then get it good.”
The corollary of which, of course, is, “You can’t get it good if you don’t get it down.”

Best to all,