Moravia, 200 lines a day

I read from a memory reported by the journalist Eugenio Scalfari, that Alberto Moravia used to work every day from 10:00 to 12:00 AM, with the goal (always achieved) of writing 200 lines in that time.

This seems a lot to me. It is true that the late Moravia used to repeat himself a bit, but he was in any case capable of releasing some commendably high-quality literature.

Maybe I must just speed up my typing to become a great writer…


Or set your clock to automatically reset to daylite savings time every evening at 11:59, then reset to standard time at 4:59 am if your alarm is set for 6. :smiley:

How many words in a line? about 15? Then that translates to 3000 words in two hours. That again is 25 words a minute…or one word every other second. phew That is a lot. :slight_smile:

But assuming he spent the remaining working hours of the day planning exactly what to write, I guess its doable? But I wouldn’t be surprised if his editor didn’t like this strategy. :question:

As a non-fiction writer, I have a good day if I squeeze out anything between 2-3000 words a day. I have managed 7000 words on days where the deadlines have loomed dark and terrible…


The most important thing is to set a goal and always achieve it. Of secondary importance is the number words you want to achieve (within reason). :smiley:

I’ve written up to 8000 words a day when under a tight deadline for a non-fiction work (had to write 1000+ pages in six weeks, but there were also figures and illustrations to fill some of that space). My fiction writing is MUCH slower, woe be unto me. I had a 3000-word day last week and did a major happy dance in the middle of Panera Bread – probably not my most dignified moment, but it worked for me at the time. :smiley:

In Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg talks about heat.

Your writing process like an oven: There are two kinds of pressure you put on yourself - one is word/page/line count. The other is time.

Sometimes you give yourself lots of space - you have as much time as you like to write 3 pages, sometimes you write for 10 minutes without stopping.
Both methods you can come up with good things - the first one, however, often it’ll end up too spaced out and will end up feeling a little too lukewarm. The second method, you can end up with lots of crazy random stuff just so that you don’t stop.

And then when you do both simultaneously it can get really interesting. Finding a balance between these two pressures can be a very good catalyst for good writing. Sometimes when you’re avoiding something, it’s good to turn the heat up, sometimes when you feel burnt out you need to turn it down - but having an awareness of this can be a brilliant way to produce good writing.

I think setting a goal like word count or line count per day is a really good way to be a “filler” writer.

All filler no killer. :slight_smile:

Sometimes it comes to you and you can’t get the words down fast enough. Other times it may take hours to get the perfect opening statement.

Writing is a creative “art”.

So ask yourself these questions.

When was the last time you talked to a painter and they said they like to get in at least 3,000 brush strokes per day?

Or a musician that said they try to write about 3,000 notes a day?

Or a photographer that said I look to take about 250 pictures per day?

How about sketch artist that says they try to get in at least 10 sketches a day?

If an “artist” is truly striving to be creative then they will allot a given “time frame” (ie. 3 hours) per day with the understanding that they may also have explosions of creativity (like in the middle of the night) that fall outside the the alloted time frame.

An artist would never brush strokes as a goal and a musician would never use “notes” as a goal. So why would one use words?

IMHO I truly believe that those that set “word count” goals tend to write mainly filler with some killer because the focus is more important on getting X amount of words down per day rather than spending X amount of time writing the best chosen words.

If that makes any sense?

I can feel it in my bones!! Im gonna suffer for this, probably psychologically as well as physically. :open_mouth: Ill end up coughing blood up, or suffer excruciating muscle spasm, maybe develop extraordinarily weird maladies or phobias, or some suchlike afflictions; but in answer to:

Yes it does.[size=50] Aaaarrrgh!! I cant get my breath...Im choking…Uuugghh!!..gurglegurgle!! [/size]

I disagree. In my experience (and that of many others), those “explosions of creativity” are much more likely to happen when I am writing regularly. In order to write well, I have to be willing to write badly. It may be that being confronted with my own sludge forces my brain to get creative, it may be that writing keeps the wheels spinning, but in my experience my overall output is better when I set (and meet) word count targets than when I don’t.

When I’m writing more, I’m also less attached to any individual section. That makes me more willing to edit, which definitely makes the final output better.

It’s also worth noting that many of the most respected artists (in many fields) were also insanely prolific. The Mozarts and Picassos of the world were busy creating pretty much all the time. Leonardo DaVinci’s notebooks run to hundreds of pages and detail dozens of potential projects. (And yes, visual artists do talk about filling so many sketchbooks or shooting so many pictures in a given amount of time.)

There is no writing so bad that it can’t be improved, but a blank page is just a blank page.


PS Being prolific is also very useful if you’re trying to actually earn a living as a writer, but that’s another topic.

This might very well be true. I found myself getting very defensive reading your post, because you’re right and I set word count goals. But you’re also wrong.

I am not a photographer, painter or any other kind of artist. I am a seasonal procrastinator. I don’t know if the same kind of procrastination issues float around in other areas of the creative arts, but it seems to me that writers (or at least a few wannabe writers) are heavily infected with this annoying disease.

Setting a word count goal does produce filler, but it does also kill procrastination. Photographers take shitloads of wasted pictures. They have always done, and now, with digital cameras, its even worse. For every photographic masterpiece, don’t you think that photographer (on average) must have wasted huge numbers of shots? This is filler. But its filler that simply is needed to kill. :slight_smile:

I dunno, who cares, I got another brilliant review in a big paper today!!! YIIIHAAA! Now, if only the damn book would sell! (for those who read Norwegian: )


I draw. I force myself to draw on lots of occasions. I’ll tell myself I’ll do 2 drawings (ok, not 10) because I know that if I don’t force myself, I won’t do it. And the longer I don’t draw, the worse I get. I lose the ease with which I draw, I find myself having to get back into ‘it’, when I don’t draw for a while. I very much belief in the regularity of creativity. I don’t have the luxury that I can do what I want whenever I want it (blame the job, the dog, the several illnesses etc) so I work around all those things that prevent me from writing or drawing all day. And I discovered that I can still ‘produce’ after a crappy day at work, after feeling ill all day, after having to take the dog to the vet. It may not turn into my best work ever, and it may even turn into the worst I have ever done.

But I learn from it. And I hope I never stop learning from crappy work I make :slight_smile:


ps. I suspect the ‘word/sketch-goal’ works for some people, and also does not work for others. So stick to what works for you :slight_smile:

Yeah, sorry Wock, but you’ve got this all wrong. I don’t know any serious artist, whether professional or amateur, that doesn’t set themselves targets and basically force themselves to work through the procrastination.

Pro artists sketch and paint all the time, pro writers write thousands of words because they know there’ll be a couple hundred in there that are worthwhile, pro photographers take pictures every day, and so on. And amateurs do it whenever they get the time; I know many “serious amateur” photographers and artists who are constantly using their spare time to practice and create.

The concept of the “muse” is a lovely romantic notion, but it’s also rubbish. And it does aspiring creatives a disservice, in my opinion. If you sit there waiting for inspiration to strike, you may as well just take up watching paint dry, because the muse never comes often enough, or for long enough periods, to actually get anything finished.

I don’t now about this. I think the “muse” is a reality, but it is not all it is cracked up to be. Kind of like “romance in marriage”. Those of us who are over 15 years hitched to the same person will all say that there is “romance”, but it isn’t all romps in rose petal covered beds. Do those times happen? God I hope they continue, but romance is more the daily waking up with the same elbow in your kidney (don’t ask).

So, yes, wock is wrong, but he is also right. You have to WORK at art (I know musicians who do have word, bar, or even note counts who turn out very amazing work) but you need to find some inspiration somewhere.

Personally I have come to enjoy the elbow as much as the romp.

Exactly - unless you know the tools of your trade, heavenly inspiration & insights won’t get you anywhere. You need to learn to express this insight in some material form, and a word count goal will teach you how to express yourself. To some degree. :slight_smile:


Yeah, Jaysen, I was more speaking to the notion that you should only create when the muse visits you. I acknowledged that inspiration does strike, but not often enough “out of the blue” to be of any use.

Anthony you have to remember that those with a white-lightning based muse may have much more frequent “visitings” than normal people. And if you drink like a pigeon the muse may never leave.

What irks me about my own lack of discipline is the follow through on completing an inspired piece. Once the glory of the idea is past and the sweat of the work begins, the level of effort required to bring a finished product to the surface is demoralizing. But uninspired “stuff” already has a high expectation of effort and so the work is less demoralizing.

A journalist writes with a word count based on SPACE and not content. And they use the art of “filler” when they run out of facts. And where was it that “word count” came from? Was it from the “classics” and such?

Nope. It came from Newspaper writing and typesetting and was based on amount of available space.

It is not a goal but rather a LIMITATION that is set.

When most people go to work they work for a set amount of hours (usually 8) and not a set amount of things done.

My point is simple. The goal should be one of time invested on a project and not the amount of “hammer strokes” one uses.

Imagine if Framers built houses based on “hammer strokes.”

The time frame allocation allows for discipline (applying ones self to a task) but does not encourage filler where a word count not only encourages “filler” but teaches it as time progresses.

So you have written 2,950 words and you have no idea what to write next. Do you write 50 words of so so filler or do you sit in the chair for 6 more hours trying to reach your 3,000 word deadline?

Word count was and is used for one reason and that is figuring our space/length of a written piece. It is a quota.

Quota does not encourage creativity of finding the best for that situation but rather filling the slot with anything that meets the quota. In other words it encourages writing filler.

Publishers use it to determine the size/amount of pages of a book. Newspapers/magazines use it to determine length of article and column(s) / pages needed.

Writers use it to meet a quota for a deadline.

If you study the workings of Right Brain/ Left Brain you will find that things like “word counts” are left brain designs and interfere with the Right Brain (creative side) since most people are left brain dominate.

By allowing yourself to go into your “right brain” you lose count of words, time, the outside world, etc and you go into a dreamlike quality. This is where creativity lies. This also happens when you drive a car (hence the day dream like feeling of driving) since the left brain or logical side of your brain cannot grasp the idea of driving.

So scientifically speaking if you impose a careful “word count” and watch it closely you are keeping yourself in the left brain (logic side) and are not fully utilizing the RIght Brain (creative side) and you end up writing more “filler” than killer because the right brain is not dominate and can be easily suppressed when the left side of the brain has to take over calculate logic (like tracking a word count).

If you want a simple analogy let us look at the Police.

If you told a Cop that he was to work 8 hours a day and during that time he was to catch speeders that were the biggest risk he would go after the biggest speeders. (Using Killer)

But instead if you told a Cop he had to write 36 tickets a day would he pull over only the most dangerous abusers or would he pull over anyone that met the criteria of speeding (Using Filler).

Word count = quota = encourages the use of filler.
Time frame = Time Allocation = encourages staying focused and using time wisely on an overall job.

One is used for “filling” or restraining to a given space, the other is used to discipline towards staying focused on working towards an overall goal (finished piece of work).

And some may point to professional writers as using word count and how industry standards are word count and I would kindly point out how many published books are mainly filler and few are killer. :slight_smile:

My only point is the “Creative side” of our brain does not understand nor care about word counts or quotas. It will come as it is ready it could be only 10 words one day or it could be 10,000 words on another. Setting a fixed amount of words gives more value to the AMOUNT of words written per day and not the actual QUALITY of the words chosen in one day.

That is the fallacy of an amount based or quota based system. In reality no matter what anyone says it will be Quantity over Quality. Or the “production line” method versus the “hand made” method. One is quota based the other is quality base, both are sellable.

Again, that’s not my experience.

In my experience, the number of “killer” words is a gradually increasing percentage of the total number of words written. The more words I write, the more high quality material I produce.

In part, I think you’re ignoring the importance of editing. For me, at least, attempting to produce 100% “killer” material in the first draft just doesn’t work. The harder I try, the more hours I spend staring at the page, the more the life leaches out of whatever I’m working on. I have much more success if I just cut loose, filling as many pages as the project requires without too much concern for perfection. The second pass is when I slice out the filler sections, close the gaps, and polish every line until it gleams.

For me, creating first draft and editing are two separate activities. Focusing on word count at the first draft stage helps me separate the two.


Wock, I think I understand what you mean, I’m just not sure I agree.

I do agree that our Creative Side doesn’t think in logic terms as numbers. But I do have to admit that without my logic side, my Creative Side does not stand a chance. I can always find household chores to do in that hour or two I alloted to ‘being creative’ so I’ll feel guilty. I can not tell myself ‘well, here’s two hours, do creative stuff.’. I’ll freeze up then. Too much to do, too little time!

However, I have learned I can do an x amount of work in an x amount of time, so I’ll just tell myself ‘do the dishes, then one drawing, and then laundry.’ And then it doesn’t matter if the drawing takes 5 minutes, 30 minutes or 2 hours. I have set several goals, and I complete those.

Or not. Sometimes I do two drawings and no laundry, but I won’t feel bad about it because usually I have enjoyed myself a lot doing the two drawings instead of laundry.

I just very much need the frame around it, I cannot (yet?) work without.

It’s also about pushing myself, I try to set my goal beyond what I think I can manage (but if I don’t make it, I won’t hate myself for it). When I just came out of the hospital and had to walk my dog, I’d set a goal for myself to walk the slightly longer walk (by 20 metres or so). Those last 20 metres were hell, I would have to drag myself, and sometimes had to sit down halfway to catch my breath, but I did do it (and sometimes not). And I felt good about doing it. I’d feel half-dead after doing it, but I could rest afterwards.
Just like most of the time, I can edit afterwards. I can make chances to what I did before, without feeling bad about it.

I need my goals to actually do it. I’m not one of those lucky people that just goes and do it, I need to feel some sort of justification, no matter how small. This may be a ‘bad’ way to do it, but it works for me now and have no doubt that someday I’ll feel ready for a better way and then I’ll follow the better way.

But in the meantime, I stick to what works, just like everybody should.



That is a perfect definition of writing “filler”. :slight_smile:

A trick we used in recording a guitar was to give it a sound (EQ) that had the full spectrum which sounded kinda ugly but then once it hit the editing floor we could eq the raw sound and perfect it. Because we chose to give a “full spectrum” sound as the raw sound we had more to work with than if we had recorded the sound we originally wanted (stage sound).

So what does that have to due with the price of apples in Tennessee? The point is if you start off with what you feel is your best THEN edit it you polish to perfection because with that you have more to work with.

If you just write the first thing that comes to mind you are just writing filler to fill a quota and the quality is not your best. If you tell yourself that is ok that you can polish during the second draft that is basically saying that during the editing is when you will actually sit down and do the writing. The first draft is just space holding filler for when you do the second draft. The second draft is when you actually do your writing? If it is filler then a lot of it won’t be used so it will hit the editing floor and a rewrite will occur. Now the rewrite is done with the same practice Word Quota. What happens then? More Filler?

So I would ask how is that efficient? If you don’t know what to write or how you want to say something then just don’t write it and wait until that part comes to you but if you just throw down words to meet a project quota then you are writing…


Each may have their own method and they will do what works for them but I would ask why half ass something just to come back a second time and then figure out how you really want it. Why not get as much as you can done the way you want the first time then during the second draft you are more focused on doing POLISHING rather than rewriting all the filler you used to meet your nightly quota? Polishing is taking that rough raw thing and making it shine. Polish is not tkaing the raw item tossing it in the trash and the going looking for a new raw item.

Ask yourself this. Out of all the classics and all the best sellers do you think the author was more focused on actually writing or focused on pounding 3,000 a day 5 days a week?

Once a person starts doing whatever meets the quota you have to ask yourself are they really going to go back and catch every single instance of filler or are they gonna let that slide if the deadline is looming closely?

Tannie you said

That is actually time allotment and not “quota fulfillment”. Quota fulfillment would be you saying
"do the dishes, then 550 pencil strokes, and then laundry. You are actually giving yourself a rough time allotment and priority set instead. I will do x then y and then if I have enough time before I go to bed I will do Z. Or I will start then finish task 1 then move to task 2 then move to task three.

By giving yourself a list of priority and time allotments you allow yourself freedom for creativity and your goal is two completed projects. The question you have to ask yourself is this. It is getting late and you are growing tired and your “goal” was two finished sketches and you are 2/3rds through just your first one. Do you stop where you are or do you just rough sketch the last 3rd of the first sketch and do some rough sketch for number two to meet your “goal” then go to bed only to wake up the next morning and redo the first sketch completely and to repair the rushness of the last third and completely trash the second drawing or do you convince yourself that although it is not the best you could create you can always “polish” it later?

Something else to think about is this. Lets say someone types 50wpm in 10 minutes they wil have typed out roughly 500 words. In 60 minutes they would have typed out around 3,000.

If they spend half the time thinking that is about 2 hours (1 hour thinking 1 hour actually writing).

Basically the idea of 3,000 words is a quota of about 2 hours time if you type at about 50 wpm.

In reality you could be at a section that you just blow through and you pound out your perfect scene in no time and then other times it could take you weeks to work out a particular scene.

One Author I enjoy reading had a really top notch action scene in one of his books. The action was nail biting and every bit of that scene was KILLER. It took all of ten minutes to read through the whole scene.

It took him almost three weeks to write it. If he was following a “word quota” he would have had that scene written in one evening. Instead he took three gut wrenching weeks and pounded out a “killer” scene.

Creativity does not understand logic, it does not know timelines nor does it understand quotas and discipline. IT is rather more like an unbridled energy that could consume you at times and other times leave you staring at a blank screen without a clue.

If you take creativity and give it a “sandbox” where it has room to play and explore it will do just that. If you give your creativity a list of exactly what you expect from it each time it goes to the sand box then you are going to get just that. Nothing more.

In the end ask yourself this honest question. Does a “quota goal” encourage the best or does it encourage just putting stuff down to meet the quota only to come back during the editing and try to polish an ugly stone or send you searching for a whole new stone (complete rewrite).

The important thing as a writer is to actually write. If you feel that forcing yourself on a predesignated march (Quota) works better for you than run till you are tired (time allotment) then use what fits.

Just make sure you edit out all your filler and rewrite with killer becuase if you miss any filler it will be obvious to a reader when they reach a scene that feels like it was assembled like a modular home.


Tannie since you relate to sketching here is an experiment you may enjoy (This is actual science).
When one is “drawing” say a picture of an object (say a portrait or still life). The left side of your brain (logic) see the sketching you are working on and compares it to what it actually “sees” and tends to “mess a person up” to the point they feel they cannot draw.

But if that person were to take the picture and rotate it 180 degrees (turn it upside down) and then turn their sheet of drawing paper (cnavas) upside down (180degrees) then draw what they see the upside down drawn sketch will “better” and a more accurate rendintation. Why?

Because by turning the paper 180 degress the left side of your brain becomes confused because it does not understand the upside picture it is seeing. Since it is confused it will NOT interfere with the right side of your brain and your right side has better control of your drawing hand.

Here is another one that is neat from the Book “Drawing on the Right Side Of Your Brain”
after trying the faces/vase exercise read the explanation for the exercise. It is very interesting.

In summary Creative writing is unleashing the right side of your brain and giving rein to your imagination. How you go about that is completely up to you but I do have to say this…

Why would you let your left side of your brain determine when and why you will write when it is actually your right side of the brain that is doing the “writing”? The left may find the letters to use but it is the right side that actually “creates” what will be written. Is it really discipline or is that your left side of your brain doesn’t like the idea of relenquishing control so it has to have something logical to hold onto? Like say measuring your daily progress? In order to do that it would need some form of measurement.

Like a word count maybe.

Do editors make good writers or do good writers make good editors?

Hard to say. They are two different professions. Usually people excel at only one.

In print we have an old saying when working out the logistics of a job. There are four governing attributes that make up a the completion of a job or project. The customer can pick only three. The fourth is determined by what three they prioritize.