September 29, 2010

Counting words

          In my last post I wrote about how numbers influenced the writing of my current book. And that made me examine how numbers impact my writing overall. Or rather how they don't. I think I am quite unusual in that respect. I simply couldn't care less about numbers when it comes to my writing. And by that I mean I pay no attention whatsoever to word count. Shocking, I know.
          Word count, it would seem, is very big deal. I constantly see updates from the writers I have connected with on Twitter sharing how many words they have written in a specific time period. There are even contests and challenges based on word count. For many writers, it is the standard by which they set their goals and measure their success. And if that works them, I think it is great.
          The only time I ever look at word count on a piece I am writing is if I am submitting it somewhere and there is a minimum/maximum requirement. The rest of the time, I set my goals based on content. For example, "I hope to complete this scene tonight." Or, "My goal is to complete Chapter X this week." Those are goals I personally find motivating and am easily able to measure. It's what works for me.
          A lot of my writer friends enjoy participating in the #1k1hr challenge. It's a great concept, and I understand why they have embraced it. It encourages you to dedicate time to your writing. Sometimes groups of writers take part in a #1k1hr challenge. They set the day/time in advance. Other times writers challenge each other and go one-on-one.
          I have never been able to participate, because I am the full time mom of a toddler. Perhaps now that she is beginning preschool I will be able to try my hand at it and see what I think. I certainly do hope to use my child-free time to kick some serious writing a**!
          What about you, writers? How important is word count to your approach? How do you use it to your advantage?


  1. Well, when I was writing Expectations, I tried to get as many words as I could because that's what I was used to at school. I ended up with 128,000 :O. Way too many. So, I cut it down to around 90,000 to be able to sell it.

  2. In the first draft, I do pay attention to word count, mostly as a motivational tool. I know if I can just get the words down, I'll have something to fiddle with--which is the part of writing I really love. The #1k1hr challenge can be very useful during this phase.

  3. Oh, that is funny considering I posted my word count today! LOL

    I do like to set word count goals for myself, and it works for me. But I would probably be a good calorie counter too if I were dieting! LOL

  4. @ Liz - And did you feel the cut made it better?

    @ Linda - That approach makes a lot of sense to me.

    @ Jennifer - I hate counting calories! Makes me nuts! LOL

  5. Yes, I really do think the cut made it better, but ironically, when I got my publisher, they told me to add back in some elements... ;)

  6. huh, i hate math, too. never heard of the #1k1hr challenge, but for the past 2 months a friend and i have been writing 1k words/day, and it takes about an hour and let me tell you: it makes ALL the difference. has definite, palpable spillover effect, too, though i admit that i write 10 pages cause that averages 1k words in my journal. will also admit that some days my handwriting gets real, real big . . .

  7. I think it really depends on how you are motivated and what makes you tick. For example, some on twitter today were discussing that they need to have specific goals - daily goals if possible - in order to meet their writing quota. Others - like myself - crack under having goals because time is so short that i can never meet them. My only goal is to write when the stars align and allow me to. I have become much more word conscious since i began writing flash (max 1000 words) and many of the sites that i submit to have specific minimum or maximum requirements. But, Elizabeth, don't feel like you need to participate in word counting contests or goals if they just don't jive with you - you may do more harm than good. Nanowrimo nearly killed me last year and i learned a valuable lesson - setting specific goals is a horrible idea for me because i am by nature competitive and once a goal is set, i will sacrifice whatever i need to in order to meet it. Bad idea in my situation.

  8. seeing as i'm no longer in grad school and haven't yet secured a crit group or an agent, i have no deadlines. i need deadlines to motivate. #1k1h gives me an attainable deadline, and if i'm lucky, i'll keep going past the hour.

    as linda said, it's nice to have a reason to get the words down so that i can then have something to fiddle with.

  9. I haven't seriously done any writing for so long that word count is just meaningless numbers to me. I know that I can let myself go crazy if the story takes hold...that will probably come in handy when I seriously begin wrting my novel again.

  10. This will be my sixth year participating in NaNoWriMo. November is the only time I worry about word count and it's simply because the goal is to reach 50K. Otherwise, I'm with you. I just want to finish a chapter or a scene. I'm not worrying about how long it is.


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