The Idea of Limited Words

I have a few mentors that I touch base with from time to time. One of them recently said to me that I was smart to balance my workload based on free vs. paid and original vs. tie-in, because we only have so many words we will write.

The idea that a writer has a limited amount of words they’ll write in their lifetime is, quite frankly, horrifying to me. What happens on the days that I didn’t write? Should I feel guilty that I neglected to pour myself into a story?

Even though the idea of limited words has implications, I think those are worth exploring because writing on “borrowed time” raises several questions like:

  • Am I writing what I want to write? Or what others want me to write?
  • Have I gotten paid for what I’m worth?
  • Am I satisfied with the submission choices I’ve made?
  • Do I know what markets are a good fit for my work?
  • Am I stretching and experimenting with my limits?
  • How am I measuring progress? By my own publications or someone else’s?
  • Where do I want to be as a writer in five years? Ten?
  • What form of writing do I enjoy the most? Least?
  • If I died tomorrow, would I be satisfied with my work?

The other thing that I feel this concept does, is help you shape how you spend your time. While you’ll never know when you reach your limit of words, I suspect that the fear one day you’ll run out of them may help shape not only what you write, but where you submit and how much you get paid for it.



Monica Valentinelli is a writer, editor, and game developer. Her portfolio includes stories, games, comics, essays, and pop culture books.

In addition to her own worlds, she has worked on a number of different properties including Firefly, Vampire: the Masquerade, Hunter: the Vigil, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, and Robert E. Howard’s Conan.

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