The Word Count Conundrum
When this past weekend started the word count on my work in progress (WIP), tentatively called Blood in the Water, stood at 29,822.
Given the way this story has been progressing I was looking forward to a very productive weekend.
Saturday was a day of limited work. I had to meet with my tax preparation professional in the morning (yes, that’s right…I procrastinated as long as I could on that one!) and in the evening I was out for dinner and a comedy show with the family to celebrate my sister’s birthday.
Total word count for the day…less than 1,000.
Sunday was a free day.
No plans, no chores, no interruptions – I could make up for Saturday’s dismal progress.
After an early morning bicycle ride I got down to business.
I would love to tell you that I hammered the keyboard relentlessly all day and finished the weekend with a word count that exceeded my expectations.
I really would love to tell you that.
Here’s the thing…
I am at a point in the story where something big needs to happen. I think the technical term is the “mid-point shift”. Whatever it’s called…that’s where I am.
It’s like being at a fork in the road and trying to decide which direction you should go.
Except in this case there are at least four different forks.
They’ll all get me where I need to go, but which one is best for the story?
On my bike ride I gave it lots of thought.
I could go this way…which would mean this has to happen, and I wouldn’t be able to do that, and some of the stuff I wrote earlier would have to change.
Or I could go that way…which would mean something else would have to follow and the stuff I’ve already written would be good, with some minor tweaking.
Then again, if I choose fork number three it would mean something else would follow and there would be some significant reworking of previous material needed.
What if I sort of combined options one and two? Or one and three?
You get the point…
I’m not a planner. I don’t draft outlines of my story or write key points on index cards to keep me on track. At best, I’ll scribble a thought on a scrap of paper and add it to the pile on my desk (many of these notes go unread and get thrown away).
In the writing world I’m what is referred to as a pantser. Which means I write by the seat of my pants. I have a beginning of the story, I know what I want to happen (basically) and I know how it will end, but the rest of it I make it up as I go along. (Here is a more detailed explanation of my style (or lack thereof).
So when I sat down to write Sunday morning with all of these possible storylines in my mind I knew my first task was to decide which one I was going to use. Unfortunately, with my writing style of choice, there was only one way to do this:
Pick an option, start writing, and see where it goes.
Long story short…
After six hours and three different options I found the one I wanted/needed.
When I sat down at the keyboard it was around noon. When I shut the computer off it was almost eight o’clock (Yeah, I know – that’s more than six hours…I never said I didn’t take a break…or five).
After all that typing, I ended up with a net increase in my story’s word count of about 2,800 words – for two days!
Write 3 or 4,000 words…analyze them…decide they aren’t what I want…delete…repeat.
All the planners out there are saying “You see…this is why being a pantser is stupid!”
Sorry – you might as well tell me to not be left-handed.
And in reality – I’m not whining or complaining.
I understand that although my word count didn’t grow, my story did. Now that I know where the story is going I’ll be able to crank out the next 15,000 words (and maybe more) with minimal delays.
Which brings me to the point of this post…
I have a question (or two) for all you writers, authors and scribblers out there…
Do you keep track of your daily (or weekly, monthly, whatever) word count?
If so, how much importance do you put on it?
Personally, I keep track of how many words I write every time I sit down, but the number isn’t important to me. I use it as a gauge to see where I am in the story compared to where I should be.
My novels generally clock in at about 70,000 words – so if my word count is at 35,000, and I haven’t gotten into the story enough, I know I’ve got to get it in gear. It could also mean I’m being too verbose and need to go back and trim some of the fat.
Other than that, my word count means nothing.
As this weekend proved – progress is not always measured by the word count.
I would really like to hear your thoughts on this…
As always – thank you for reading