Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Word Count Perfection

Word count is such a huge thing when it comes to writing, isn't it? Making sure your overall MS fits within a certain count. Hitting your writing goal for the day, or week, or month (or whatever). Word counts for your scenes or chapters. Adding or subtracting during revisions, and so on!

But I'd like to talk about two aspects of word count when it comes to trying to be perfect.

The first is something I did with an older manuscript of mine. I should preface this by saying that sometimes I get a bit OCD with making things neat and organized (I'm not an uber-neat person or anything though.) There are just certain areas where I like order and apparently one of them was in my word count with chapters. I used to be so fixated on making my chapters around the same length. I liked seeing each chapter come out to being around ten pages or so when written on Word. It made me happy.

Until I realized it was only hurting me and my story. I was trying to fit my scenes and chapters into nice, neat little boxes that they didn't want to fit in. I ended up rushing scenes or adding in extra unnecessary stuff just to fill in space. I know, I know, this is probably something that not many of you struggle(d) with. But I did. Then I read somewhere (and I can't even remember who or where it was to give credit) that as much as you want variation in your story and characters and all that good stuff, it's also beneficial in your word count. How boring it would be to read 10 pages chapters one after the other after the other all the time, none shorter or longer ever. That's when I learned to let go of the un-needed order of my word count in chapters. Variation is more refreshing and I don't stifle my writing by trying to fit it into a little box.

Which kinda leads into my next point. Number 2: Don't let your need for word count hold back your writing. This is something I'm struggling with lately now that I have a specific word count goal for each day (which, Eek!, I've been lax on today). I spend my writing time trying to hit that goal and sometimes my focus turns from the story and my characters to that--to have I written enough, not have I written this the best I can.

That's not saying that you can only write amazing stuff all the time (HA! I wish!) I write a lot of stuff that needs to be edited and revised (and edited and revised). I'm talking about not letting my focus shift from trying to write the best story I can--for my character, my reader, and myself--to worrying just about my word count, making my goals.

So that's what I've struggled with in the past and what I'm learning to deal with now too. Any of you have similar situations with trying to perfect your word count (in whatever way) over your the quality of your words?

Word count matters...but not as much as your story. Write the best you can and then worry about the count. That's my new motto lately.

(Also, while searching images for word count meters, Google gave me this--and I just couldn't not post it! Happy Tuesday, everyone!)

1 comment:

  1. Word count! ah! Last night I compiled everything so I could see it as one piece, read through, do an edit. And I was so excited about the word count, then I remember what it used to before. And what a difference!

    That first final draft was so long (you remember!) like 120K. And now I'm 83K and the story is so so so much better.

    It's just like you said about it not always being "have I written enough" but "have I written well?"