Word Count?

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Word Count?

Postby Preacher » 05 Apr 2011, 07:40

Do you guys worry about your word count when you are writing? For instance, when i write, i start every new chapter by opening a new document and at the end of each document i hit the function at the top of the page for word count, record it, and keep track of the count in each document, adding the total every ten chapters so i know where i am. Someone once said not to worry about the count now, that formatting issues ad the function use is not really accurate. I just worry that when i finish a draft that i will not have enough words.

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Re: Word Count?

Postby Collectonian » 05 Apr 2011, 08:37

When I'm first writing the story, I don't worry about word count unless I'm trying to meet a specific goal for the day (i.e. doing NaNo). My primary goal is to get the initial story written. In the second edit, I still don't really "focus" on word count, rather I'm looking at the big issues (cohesive plot, well-rounded characters, etc). I really don't start looking at word count until I'm getting more into the third around of editing, where its getting closer to something ready for beta readers and the like, when it starts to matter more.
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Re: Word Count?

Postby dios4vida » 05 Apr 2011, 08:47

I'm obsessive about word count, but only because I get really excited when I reach "mile post" numbers. In terms of worrying about words, I'd say that the advisors are probably right. I've had novels go from 124,000 words (yeah, I know, waaaaay too many) to 110 (still too many) in two edits, and I've had 68,000 go to 74. It all depends on how you write, though. If you make sure each chapter is close to perfect before moving on, word counts might be more of an issue if you just write to get continuity and then add details and prose later. Just remember, you can always go back and add/delete words at a later date - don't let things like word count stop you from making progress today.

All in all, I think it mostly comes down to the whole "write however works for you" thing. Some people can't see a word count or it'll kill their progress - others can't go four sentences without checking. If you're still writing, making progress, and enjoying the work, then I'd say you've found a good modus operandi.
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Re: Word Count?

Postby Preacher » 05 Apr 2011, 08:52

my ultimate fear is that once i tell the story that it will be short on words and i dont know how easy it is to go back in and add stuff, epecially if you think the story is told and what if you feel you are like 10k short, how easy is that to really fix during edits?
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Re: Word Count?

Postby dios4vida » 05 Apr 2011, 08:55

Preacher wrote:my ultimate fear is that once i tell the story that it will be short on words and i dont know how easy it is to go back in and add stuff, epecially if you think the story is told and what if you feel you are like 10k short, how easy is that to really fix during edits?


It's not as hard as you think. Adding in a bit of description, dialogue, or character development here and there can easily make 10k. If you're just a bit short like that it's a good time to expand things to get a little extra richness to the prose. You don't have to touch the plot to make up 10k.
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Re: Word Count?

Postby Preacher » 05 Apr 2011, 09:13

And right there, you hit the thing that worried me the most -that i would have to tweak, add or otherwise fool around with the plot, and that is something i would not want to have to do. I end up becoming a slave to counts, trying to see each section i work on come in at anywhere between 2k and 4k, which is something i want to try and work away from. I want to change my mindset and write a section, finish, and save without checking the count and tallyling it with others. I want to finish a draft and then start editing each section and then seeing where i can add some description or some development or things like that.
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Re: Word Count?

Postby Robin » 05 Apr 2011, 10:27

Word counts...

As a NaNoWriMo participant, I was obsessed with hitting that 50K mark, but quickly realized that most of my 50K written at the time was crap. I whittled my MS down to a svelte 28K and added quality. I'm almost back up to 50. I think in the end, my novel will hover around 55-60K

I guess I'm saying don't worry so much about quantity. Make sure you have the QUALITY.
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Re: Word Count?

Postby Dankrubis » 05 Apr 2011, 11:16

I think it helps to pay attention to word count.

If I'm aiming for 80,000 words, then I know act 2 needs to start around the 20,000 mark, act 3 around 60,000, etc. So if I'm only at 12,000 words and I'm almost to the part I've designated as the first plot point, then I know I'm probably writing too fast, or not using enough description, or maybe I need to introduce that 2nd act subplot a little sooner, etc.

But, I'm one of those get-everything-figured-out-beforehand writers. To me, if writing a novel is like sailing the across of the Pacific, word count is the North Star.
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Re: Word Count?

Postby dios4vida » 05 Apr 2011, 11:50

Preacher wrote:And right there, you hit the thing that worried me the most -that i would have to tweak, add or otherwise fool around with the plot, and that is something i would not want to have to do. I end up becoming a slave to counts, trying to see each section i work on come in at anywhere between 2k and 4k, which is something i want to try and work away from. I want to change my mindset and write a section, finish, and save without checking the count and tallyling it with others. I want to finish a draft and then start editing each section and then seeing where i can add some description or some development or things like that.


Adding or deleting a few thousand words doesn't have to affect plot in the least. Doing little things like adding (or deleting) a bit of physical movement to conversations or expanding (contracting) a character or setting description just a little can easily add up.

If you really want to start writing without checking word counts but are scared to start on a major project, start with a short story or another WIP you have brewing in the back of your mind. Purposely refuse to check the word count and just write what you feel needs to be written. Only check when you're done, then tweak from there. You might find that you do just fine without obsessing over it, or you might learn a few tricks to estimating proper length and running with it. It'll be difficult and scary, but it might be helpful.
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Re: Word Count?

Postby sierramcconnell » 07 Apr 2011, 08:52

I don't care as much about word count when not in NaNo. I look at it, but I'm not OMG YAY as much when I'm not dying to spill it out. But I do word count my chapters now because dear God did I have crazy long chapters in Chasing Miracles. So I'm trying to avoid that in the future by feelering around for better stops and no more that 5-7k words.

It might not work in all situations but it's a start. XD
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Re: Word Count?

Postby Leila » 07 Apr 2011, 13:05

Good question.

I find I get too swept up in the story and all my energy goes to keeping up with my characters, so no I've never paid attention to word count. There are too many possibilities to explore. But once I've gone back over the plot, and really spent time delving into the twists and turns, the way characters behaved or things they did, I can usually pick out the bits which just made me feel good to write v's what's actually needed to tell the story and the word count sorts itself out.

I guess what I'm saying is, my suggestion is to stay true to the story, let it be what it will be, then worry about all the 'technicalities' later.
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Re: Word Count?

Postby Falls Apart » 07 Apr 2011, 21:20

I generally didn't adhere too closely to wordcount before, although I still did set goals for myself. But my current project lends itself quite well to this, so I've been using it as best as I can. Generally, I try to do 2500 words a day, although, on a good day, I can get up to 5k.
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Re: Word Count?

Postby Matthew MacNish » 08 Apr 2011, 09:54

I wish I didn't have to worry about it, but I have no choice. I'm so long winded that the first draft of my first novel ended up being more than 300,000 words long. That is basically not publishable. Not as a debut. Maybe if you're famous you can sell a book that size.

Anyway, I had to cut, a lot. I'm still working on it actually. I can't imagine what it would be like to have to struggle to have enough words. That must be nice.
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Re: Word Count?

Postby Kreann » 08 Apr 2011, 10:21

Hi everyone, new to the blog, writing my first fiction novel. I'm reading your post about trying to meet word counts, but I actually have the opposite problem. I'm way over. I fell in love with my story, and kept throwing in twists and turns to keep the audience guessing. I just finished my first draft, and am going back thru and cleaning it up before sending it to a group for editing. So, how many words is too many? If I go over, say, 150,000, will agents/publishers run screaming at the site of my ms?
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Re: Word Count?

Postby Falls Apart » 08 Apr 2011, 13:44

Welcome! I love these forums. Great place to get advice/food for thought. As to your question . . . depending on your genre . . . yes. Especially if it's YA. Typical YA is 45k - 80k, some genres go higher, but even the doorstoppers are within the range of 100k to 120k. As for adult, I've heard 90k as an average, but I'm not sure; mostly I focus on YA trends. Good luck, though! :)
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