Word Counts

8 articles tagged as Word Counts

Photo by Andreas Levers, http://www.flickr.com/people/96dpi/

There are a lot of opinions about word counts. Some people feel that you shouldn’t rely on them – they lead to sloppy writing if all you care about it making your number. But other people find that word counts give them the extra push they need to keep writing.

Daily word counts as motivation

I tend to go back and forth on the subject. But I will say that one of the things that helps get me through NaNoWriMo is the word count graph. Seeing my word count growing is a real morality booster. Especially because when I’m writing, I don’t often remember what the word count was when I sat down to start writing for the day. Entering it into a graph shows me just how much I achieved. And this gives me the mental boost I need to keep going.

I don’t think writers should rely only on word counts. After all, editing usually leads to less word counts and brainstorming sessions don’t exactly add to the word count either. But not relying solely on them doesn’t mean they are a bad thing.

I’ve decided to start keeping track of my daily word count using a simple spreadsheet and graph. If nothing else, it will serve as a way to show the fiance (a.k.a. my financial backer) the progress I’m making. But I think it will also help push me to write more each day.

Writing out-of-order to keep me moving forward

In addition to keeping track of my word counts, I’ve also decided to break my cardinal rule by writing out-of-order. I’ve had this problem lately where I have scenes in my head that come much later in the book. I don’t write them because I want to write in order but then I find myself rushing through the connecting bits because I want to get to the scene I’m seeing. So, to save myself the extra editing that will result from rushed writing, I’ve decided to just get the scenes out on paper. I know that they may not flow into the rest of the story, but by extracting them, I will be able to move on to more writing.

What methods do you use to motivate yourself to write? Do you even need to motivate yourself? Do you write in order? Or do you sometimes like to mix things up?

A few weeks ago I read in a woman’s magazine (not sure which one) that it takes 66 days to make something a habit. The article was talking more about dieting, or exercising, or flossing your teeth. But in reading it, I couldn’t help but wonder if writing couldn’t also be applied to this.

I know I’ve talked about 750words.com before. Since my last post on the subject, I’ve been using it a lot – I’ve entered almost 20,000 words into the site. And I’ve got to say, it’s growing on me.

Making Writing a Daily Habit

Since February is the shortest month of the year, I decided to join the 750words.com 1-month challenge, where I will write 750 words a day for the entire month. I figure if I succeed, I will have reached day 28 in the 66 days needed to form a habit. And once I’ve hit my 28th day, what’s to stop me from writing for 38 more days? And if I manage to do this, will I have succeeded in making writing a daily habit? I hope so.

So far I am on day 7. Not long, I know. But I already feel the need to sit down and get my writing done. And it really is surprising how fast it is to write 750 words. My best time, earning me the Speedy Typist badge, is 12 minutes, but I average closer to 15. In 15 minutes a day, I can write 750+ words. Not too shabby.

My 750 words are not stellar, I know this. But I’m still on the rough draft stage of my book (and I’m almost done). My only concern with the 1-month challenge is that I will finish my first draft before the month is over. But then, is this really a bad thing?

Do you think I can finish the challenge? Do you think I can turn daily writing into a habit? Have you turned daily writing into a habit? How do you fit your writing time in? Is 15 minutes a day enough time? Or do you need more time to write a first draft?

I’m nearing the end of my first draft, and it’s everything I can do to just keep pushing through. I want to go back and read it. I want to start editing. I want to fix the plot holes I know are there. I want to make it polished and shiny and perfect. But I know I can’t do these things yet. I know I need to finish before anything else.

A change in perspective

My philosophy on this matter has changed dramatically in the past year. I used to think there was no point continuing on if you knew things needed to be fixed. But then I would get so caught up fixing that I never quite reached the end. I need to show myself that I can complete a first draft first and foremost. Once I know how it is supposed to end (I do have an idea, but everything plays out differently when you put it down on paper), I will know how to go back and spruce it up.

I’m right around 60,000 words right now. Not bad considering I started this one November 1. Ideally my WIP will come in around 90k. But I’m not stressing out. I know there are scenes I need to elaborate on, characters that need to be expanded upon. These things will give me some extra words. So instead of worrying about reaching my word count goal, I’m just worrying about getting to the end, about creating a story with the three essential parts: beginning, middle, and end.

How do you write your first drafts? Do you edit as you go? Do you try to write more words than you need or do you prefer to add instead of subtract in the editing process?

Meeting a daily word count was easy during NaNoWriMo, or easier. Now that November is long gone, I’ll be the first to admit that my daily word counts are suffering.

Why is it easier to meet daily word counts during NaNoWriMo?

NaNo is only a month long. It’s easy to put your personal life aside for one month. Plus, there’s a score of other people also sacrificing their lives for the common goal of 1,667 words a day. But for me, the progress bar was what really helped. I didn’t want to miss a day and risk falling below the ‘where you should be’ line. And so I stayed up an extra hour, or spent my lunch hour writing, or skipped the gym here and there. And then November ended, and so did many of my sacrifices.

How to keep that momentum going?

Recently, I learned about an online program called 750words.com. What’s great about 750words.com is that, like NaNo, it tracks your daily word counts. Unlike NaNo, the daily goal is more realistic for every day writers – only 750 words. Additionally, you write directly into the program and the program tracks not only your word counts, but how quickly you reach your word count, the tone of your writing, common topics, commonly used words, etc. Not only are the stats fun, but knowing that I’m being timed keeps me from wandering to other websites or just plain wandering.

In keeping with the recent trends in mobile gaming, you can also earn badges for things like reaching your word count several days in a row or reaching your word counts in a timely fashion. Plus, there is a community surrounding the site, so you can follow other writers, like you would with NaNo. And every month offers members the chance to participate in a monthly challenge where you are challenged to reach your word goal every day of the month. Winners are added to the Wall of Amazingness whereas losers find themselves on the Wall of Shame and remain there until successfully winning a month challenge.

The one negative is that you have to write on the site. Whereas with NaNo you just entered in your new word count for the day, 750words determines your word count and typing speed based off of how much you write into the text box that is provided when you login for the day. You can always just copy and paste the text into your own word processor, or use the sites text exporter, but if you have a hard time focusing in an unfamiliar environment, this could pose a problem.

The site also archives your writing. While I have no problem with this and actually like the idea of having a backup sitting in cyberspace, I know this could makes some writers uncomfortable.

If you are looking for a way to get your writing momentum back, though, why not give 750words a try? The worst you’ll get out of it is an additional 750 words. The best you’ll get is a new time management/motivation tool. If you give it a try, or if you are already using 750words, what do you think of it as a writing tool?

We have reached the second half of November. And you know what that means besides turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and my mom’s birthday? It means that NaNoWriMo is half over!

The good news for me is that I am actually on schedule this year. Scratch that. I’m ahead of schedule. When I went to bed last night, I was at 34,365 words, well over halfway to 50,000. Of course, the bad news is that NaNo has made blogging a little more difficult. But that’s actually a good thing because there’s no point in building a platform if you’ve got nothing to show for it (i.e. a book).

I know that some of my 34,365 words are duds, destined to be erased, but isn’t that the nature of a first draft? To spew everything out of your head onto paper? At least that’s what NaNoWriMo is about. And so far, it’s working. By getting everything down, I am able to clear my head. I already know some of the bits that will get cut in my next draft, but in the spirit of NaNo, I’m not cutting yet. I’m going to finish my first draft and then we can talk about the second draft.

So why is it that I can suddenly get my story down?

Part of it is discipline. The discipline of NaNo is something I’m benefiting from and something I’m hoping to be able to take with me into the coming months. I think the other part of it is keeping my focusing, working hard to get my story down in full before it starts slipping away, before I start losing momentum. With my other work-in-progress, I dragged it out, allowing doubt to seep in.

The other part of it was my planning. While I’ve deviated from the outline in some aspects, the general outline has not changed. I know where my story is going and how to get there. I think this is key.

How are you doing with the NaNoWriMo challenge? Are you on track? What’s working for you and what isn’t? And, if you haven’t donated to NaNo this year, what are you waiting for?

We are now 1 week into September, which means I have 3 weeks left to finish my first draft if I’m going to meet my deadline. As it stands, I have 30,057 words, or 105 pages. Can I make it to the finish line? I’d better.

This leaves me about 3 weeks to write 15,000 words. Considering NaNoWriMo participants write 50,000 words in 4 weeks, and my most successful year I wrote 40,000 (the basis for my current WIP), it should be doable. Of course, of those 40,000 words I wrote in those 4 weeks, I have only kept about 10,000, if that.

Why the push to finish my first draft by September 30?

There are a couple reasons:

  • To give me time to edit it and have it submission ready by the end of the year. I’m not sure how long edits will take, but I’m hoping this will be enough time. I plan on hiring an editor through Grub Street, so hopefully that will help speed up the process.
  • I have a YA book concept pulling at my creativity and I’m dying to start outlining. I’m already having trouble deciding which book to plot out in my head before bed – my WIP or this new concept I’m loving more and more each day
  • To gear up for NaNoWriMo – I plan on using my new YA concept for this years challenge, and I want to spend all of October hammering out a solid outline (I know, this sort of breaks the rules, but they never actually rule out outlines, they just dissuade you from using them). I’m hoping to finally complete my 50,000 words in 1 month and be well on my way to completing a second book. If this first book attempt has shown me anything, it’s the importance of writing from an outline. Going into my current WIP not knowing how it was going to end has really slowed things down.
  • I need to finish. Come November 1, I will have been working on this book for 3 years. I remember reading somewhere that it takes most first time authors about that long to write their first book. I didn’t believe it at the time. And now here I am, approaching my 3 year mark. It’s not so much about the time I’ve put into this, but it’s more about the emotional connection. I’ve been with this WIP longer than some divorces I know were married. The more emotionally connected I get to this book, the harder it will be to deal with criticism and edits. I need to be done.
    I need to move on.

My plan of action

I have to reach ~750 words a day. This is actually not that difficult. Most days I write during lunch. I can usually got 500-600 words in my 30 minute lunch period. That just means I will have to devote another 15-30 minutes each evening to writing, plus 30 minutes to entering everything into the computer (I write by hand during lunch and before bed).

Naturally, life will get in the way some days. I don’t want to blow all of my creative energy this month and have nothing left for November, so I would like to still have a life this month. But lucky for me, I already know of a few things that will help me out. Take next week. I will spend 3.5 hours on the Acela Monday morning. There’s nothing I love more than writing on trains, and isn’t that how J.K. Rowling outlined her entire series, on a train trip? I will then spend that entire week in New York, meaning a hotel room waiting for me every evening, full of few to no distractions and time for lots of writing. Then there are the weekends. If I stay focused, I can get a couple thousand words each weekend day. Piece of cake.

Of course, this means my creativity time will be extremely important. But who knows, maybe I’ll throw a celebration in October once the 1st draft is complete. And now that I’ve just written close to 700 non-WIP words, back to writing.

I was flipping through some posts on Literary Rambles today and came across a post from a couple weeks ago: Tip Tuesday # 47. The author suggested that instead of being overwhelmed by how much more we have to write to finish our first drafts, we should instead think of the word count as a 401k. While you don’t have enough to retire on today, you are building towards it.

Aiming For a 1st Down

This tip made me think of another analogy. Now bear with me for a moment as I include a disclaimer. I went to a southern college with a big SEC football team (UGA). I am about to use a football analogy. I remember the first game I went to. One of my fellow classmates was painstakingly explaining the rules to me. At one point early on in the game, I asked my friend, “Why is everyone cheering? We only gained 7 yards. We still have 60+ yards to go to get a touchdown.” He then explained that it’s not the big picture you have to concern yourself with. Every 10 yards equals another shot for a big play. You make it 10 yards, you get to have another go. It’s the little goals, the small accomplishments that you cheer for, because these small accomplishments will ultimately lead to the final goal, or, in this analogy, touchdown.

When I write, I try not to think about the final word count. Instead, I aim for something doable. Usually that’s 600 words a day. Reaching my goal, I celebrate. Anything more than that, I do a little happy dance. It’s like making extra yardage in football – instead of going 10 yards on the play, I’ve gone 15. For each chapter I complete, I do a big happy dance (not a pretty sight, I can assure you). As writers, we have to be our own cheerleaders because only a writer truly understands the work it takes to write one sentence, let alone an entire book.

I just found this great post by Sarah Webb on how many words a book should be. She, in turn, got some great info from kidlit.com. The general breakdown is as follows:

• Board Book — 100 words max
• Early Picturebook — 500 words max
• Picturebook — 1,000 words max (Seriously. Max.)
• Nonfiction Picturebook — 2,000 words max
• Early Reader — This varies widely, depending on grade level. I’d say 3,500 words is an absolute max.
• Chapterbook — 10,000 words max
• Middle Grade — 35,000 words max for contemporary, mystery, humor, 45,000 max for fantasy/sci-fi, adventure and historical
• YA — 70,000 words max for contemporary, humor, mystery, historical, romance, etc. 90,000 words max for fantasy, sci-fi, paranormal, etc.

You can also check out Chuck Sambuchino’s Word Count for Novels and Children’s Books: The Definitive Post

Looks like I’m closer to my target word count than I thought I was. Guess that means there will be some serious editing in the near future.