Word Counts

I realized that I am completely OCD about word counts. I set word goals for myself and yell at myself if I don’t reach them. I justify this guilt-inducing practice by reassuring myself that my goals are reasonable. I know if I can write 5000 words a week, then I will have a viable first draft done sometime in June.

I’m talking a lot about it also to hold myself accountable. But I refuse to be fucked up about my own drive. I’m at a stage in my manuscript that if I don’t set some parameters, I will never finish. It’s all about knowing your stages.

When I officially started this project, some dear people told me NOT to revise, just to write. I wasn’t to worry about what the hell I was doing writing a stupid memoir, I was just to put words on the page. And so I went to a two-week residency and wrote a hundred pages. A whole lot of it was shit. But there was stuff I could work with, improve, and salvage for parts. I didn’t worry, I just wrote.

But now I need to worry. Because if I want to make this a marketable manuscript I need to face my structural issues. And I can’t face my structural issues until I have a finished version of the manuscript. And by finished version, I mean, of course, a draft. And so I count and schedule and push myself.

Where are you?


10 responses to “Word Counts

  1. I now keep a writing log. Accountability = Productivity for me. During the final editing phase I’ve kept track of pages vs words so I don’t slit my wrists with the negative word counts. I swear I’ll be able to write the next novel at warp speed because of this change. And because the research is done. That helps.

    FTF Indie!

    • You too, Deb! The negative word count thing also makes me want to slit my wrists. However, I keep telling myself that the negative word count is directly correlated with my manuscript improving.

      Do you keep a ledger?

      • A very informal one on an Excel spreadsheet. I used to be in finance and was uber organized. I couldn’t seem to translate that productivity into my writing life so made these changes. On those days when the words don’t flow easily, it’s helpful to look and see actual numerical progress. I haven’t nailed myself to a firm to do list yet. Rather, I make note of what parts of the story need work and choose the one I’m feeling at that moment. Of course, as the list gets smaller I’m stuck with what’s there, but it seems to work for me.

        Do you keep a ledger? Do you track anything besides words and pages?

      • Excel and I have a pretty acrimonious relationship, but other than that our systems are similar. I definitely work on what I’m feeling at the moment.

        I have Scrivener, which gives me an outline of my MS on the left and measures word count. You can also (obsessively) check how many words you’ve written in a day. I mostly keep track of number of words, except that now that I’m in a delete-heavy phase, I eye not my daily total but the overall word count.

  2. Where am I?

    All over the place. I’m a mess.

    All time favourite line from my all time favourite book – “It’s not time to worry yet.” Atticus Finch, To Kill A Mockingbird

    Sadly, Atticus is wrong this time. I’m writing AND worrying – about the writing, my deadline, my tutor’s deadline for my dissertation, whether it’s any good, whether I should bother …..

    But yes I agree I can’t figure out the problem til I finish the fucker. And by fucker I mean first draft.

    Back to work.

    • That worry squelches anything I try to do, Downith. I feel for you. Just remember, one word at a time. Each one takes you closer to your goal.

  3. My worry is less in the numbers and more in the time or lack therof. There are just so many pages to be typed and only so many hours in the evening to do it. I can’t worry about too much or too little, but rather just focus on the small light of the train barreling down the tunnel towards me.

  4. I don’t quite share your strategic approach, but that’s probably because my tendency is less OCD than manic. I think there are two phases of writing (OK, heaps more, I know, but for the moment, allow me this). There’s the just-get-it-on-the-page time (that’s when you count words) and the can-i-really-submit-this? phase (where the words count, but not the counting). I do stop counting after a while. But, like I said, I am manic. Or, almost. I am not writing now actually. I am marking and wondering if I will every write anything again, other than “Janice, this is a really interesting topic, and you’ve made a good start, but…”

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