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Words, and lots of ’em.

22 November 2010

Something I’m seeing a lot of as NaNoWriMo heads into the final stretch — word counts. It’s the nature of the beast, I suppose, as there’s a word count goal for the (contest, exercise, whatever you want to call it). You’ve got to keep track of them, see how you’re pacing towards 50,000. Most people probably use Word or OpenOffice’s word count feature, and a few might use older methods, but they’re all writing to a metric at the moment.

But what if you’re not doing the NaNoWriMo thing? How important is word count then? The always-awesome Cherie Priest tracks her word count daily, and even blogs it with a little graphic, showing the words completed versus the projected total. What about you, writer friends? Do you keep track of your word counts? Do you have a goal in mind when writing a story?

I do and I don’t. On the Twitter Novel Project books (the first three, anyway), I set a minimum per-night word count goal of 500. I always hit it, sometimes just barely, sometimes overshooting by a bunch.

But here’s the thing — I don’t often have a larger goal in mind. Sure, I might like a book to end up more than 50,000 words, or around 80,000, but I don’t lock myself into it. I try to tell the story as much as it needs to be told, then hope the word count levels out in the end.

Hit me with your thoughts, folks!
On the 47 Echo sequel, I’ll check how much I’ve written when I’m done for the night, but never while I’m writing. I even write old school, in Notepad, to keep myself from checking. I’d rather write what I want to write for the evening and trust that it evens out eventually.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. 22 November 2010 0645

    Shawn:

    Hi! I never worry about how many words I’m using if I’m writing a novel, but since many venues stipulate word count limits, I keep that in mind with short stories. However, a few of my short stories have taken off and are no longer “short.”

    I think it’s great you don’t worry too much about the length of your nightly writing endeavor. Creativity soars way better if not bound by the restrictiveness of word count limits. After the writing is done…editing will always take the word count down.

    I enjoyed your post!

    • 22 November 2010 0805

      Totally agree. And when I used to use Word, I got obsessed with my word count — time checking the number is time that could be better spent writing. đŸ™‚

  2. 22 November 2010 0646

    For me, I can usually tell when a story wants to be a short or long piece and just written with the goal of telling the story to its completion. I’ve never had a specific word count in mind, though I’m mindful of industry standards, although Of Mice and Men is somewhere around 50k words, and American Gods is more than twice that, so I’d say there’s quite a bit of wiggle room there!

    • 22 November 2010 0804

      I know what you mean. Agents and publishers like to say 80,000 words minimum, but Fight Club was something like 47,000. Generation X was somewhere around there, too.

      I can see how it might help some people, but at the end of the night, it’s more a curiosity for me than a guideline.

  3. 22 November 2010 1524

    can’t remember the last time I bothered to check a word count, honestly…..

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