Writer's Problems

The Lovely World of Word Counts

Good morning! It was a beautiful day when I woke up at 5 AM. The black darkness… gorgeousness. If for some reason you can’t get up that early to see it, I’d suggest staring at a black piece of construction paper– there’ll be the same soul-enchanting effect. I will admit though, it was gorgeous when the sun started showing its face and flooding the landscape with it’s red rays. Try it sometime. Construction paper will not, unfortunately for some, have the same effect.

Anyways, I was wondering what you all thought of the ever present word count. It seems like sometimes, a huge deal is made out of it, while other times it sits idly on the sidelines. What do you guys think about it? Is it worth the hype? Or should it be tucked away in a box in the attic?

The 3 Biggest Reasons for Using Word Counts

1) Obviously one of the biggest reasons for using it is for goal tracking. After all, what’s a better way to track your progress than through the very words you write? Numbers are easy to keep track of, which makes it nice. You can set a big target for your entire story, such as saaaayyyyy, 50k words. After that, you can set a smaller goal for each day (1,667 words) and have smaller daily bites that will get you to where you need to be. One of the most motivational things you can do is to actually see your progress and that can easily be accomplished with word count trackers.

2) It’s also very helpful in competitions when you’re the judge and really don’t have time to read everyone’s full-length novel and both sequels. That would definitely get a little old after, oh, maybe the first book and sequel compilation. (Try micro fiction sometime — 100 words and under = crazy fun).

3) Another reason would be bragging rights. Because bragging rights are important, ya know? You only have 13,000 words written? Ha! I have 13,003 words! Good job, buddy. Three more words. That’s great.

The 3 Biggest Reasons for Not Using Word Counts

1) However, aiming for a certain word count can definitely add pressure… as can any sort of goal. You have to actually work to get it done and that can be hard. (Noted from experience.) Writing every day or whatever your goal is takes discipline and turning down other fun things and concentration and focus. You would have to make sure that you wrote that 1,667 words every day. You would know, definitely, assuredly, if you weren’t hitting your goal and it could add a, um, tiny bit of stress.

2) It could also take away from your story. Like in the short story I wrote for our county fair competition, the limit was 2,000 words. I had about 2,500 words and I could have kept going. 500 words had to vanish (and they did… *sobs*). It could also force you to add to your story. If you have a goal of 60,000 words but write your story and only come to 42,000 words (that’s not a problem I’m struggling with. No. Not at all…), then somewhere along the way, you have to add 18,000 more words on somewhere (*faints*).

3) One thing that I’ve slowly started to do is ignore the minium word count for the first draft. Just get it all out and flowing, and then I can worry about what to add on or take away in order to get my story to where it needs to be. I think this helps more when you have to cut down on words because then you can see all the different ways that it can go and get your ideas out before starting to limit yourself.

What do you think?

I like to use word counts to see how I’m doing. I like to be able to track my progress and see things materialize. But what about you? Where do you stand on the word count discussion? Do you use word counts? If so, what for?


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