Nemesis

Wordcount.

Fundamentally, this concept of wordcount means absolutely nothing to me. Students will ask how long something has to be, and even though I will give them some very general guidelines, I almost always say, “as long as it needs to be.” I used to follow the #amwriting hashtag on Twitter and was amazed at how often I saw tweets about daily wordcount goals or celebrations with how many words someone had written. Friends do timed writing events in order to spur high wordcounts in short amounts of time. When I write or read the fanfiction that I talked about in my last post, if I feel a chapter is too long or too short, it has nothing to do with the actual wordcount, but the content – the story itself. Because, again, a chapter is as long or short as it needs to be.

I have no real idea how much I write each day. Most of the time, I’m kind of slow, so I’m pretty sure I’m not meeting a lot of others’ daily wordcount goals. I totally get (well, maybe not totally) the idea behind wordcount goals. Some authors have real deadlines. Some writers find that it is way too easy to let the rest of life distract them. Some writers find writing enjoyable, but extremely challenging and need the discipline of such goals.

It’s just not my thing. I’m cool with an inconsistent progress and really, it’s what has to work for my life. I work from home and am also a stay-at-home mother and I slip writing in whenever I can. It works for me. My celebrations come when I get a particular scene finished or knit together major sections that weren’t connected before.

So what is my nemesis? Well drat it all if it isn’t, after all, the stupid WORDCOUNT. Right now, this wordcount business is kicking my ass. superhero fight bubbles

Because, “here’s the thing”. Length of a novel, especially a debut novel, matters. If it’s too long, I’m in for trouble. If this were a second novel and the first did well, I might be able to get away with a much longer one.

Would you like to know some fun facts? Barbara Kingsolver’s debut novel, The Bean Trees, is about 80,000 words. (Poisonwood Bible was perhaps around 200,000.) Wally Lamb’s She’s Come Undone: 145,000. The Help, by Kathryn Stockett: 139,000. These are rough estimates; I’ve seen a pretty wide-range of estimates for each novel I’ve listed, but the guidelines remain.

My current wordcount, and still not finished?

152,000. OY.

Most days I can slip past this worry and tell myself: “Just keep writing your story and worry about editing later.” But 1 out of every 9 days or so (how do you like THAT estimated statistic?), this wordcount stops me in my tracks and when it starts to directly affect how I tell my story, I force myself to take a step back. This past weekend, it did not affect me that way, but did put me in a freeze as I let myself drift into the land of “Babe, you are going to have to cut thousands of words.” And when put like that, the task seems both daunting and downright depressing.

Tomorrow. Tomorrow I will be able to move past this again and delve into my story and know that what is to come as I approach the end belongs there – at least for now. I will worry about shedding Blood, Sweat, and Tears later.

Much later. (*cries*)

(It’ll all work out…)

Wordcount for this blog post: 597.

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5 Responses to Nemesis

  1. Jen says:

    You know how I feel about wordcount. I always tend to come up short. Sigh. Without a wordcount goal when I write, I’d probably get about two lines a day done :). I’m sorry wordcount worries can stop you in your tracks. I think that since you’re getting so close to the end of your novel that all of the anxiety that comes with finishing has to go somewhere…wordcount is a pretty safe place, because it’s so easy to fix. Thousands of words? No problem. Once you get into the editing, I bet you’ll even find it fun to cut.

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    • ProfeJMarie (Janet) says:

      Just read this article : Love is Mandatory (from YAHighway), which talks about really loving your manuscript to be willing to go through the many edits it may undergo. It is good timing… because I do really, really love my novel and am willing to “suffer” through the transformations it will have to experience.

      Like

  2. My opinion is you just write what you want to write no matter how long it is. “a chapter is as long or short as it needs to be” and a book is as long or as short as it needs to be. This is not your “job” it is your passion and you should just lean in….give in to what feels right and not worry about what may or may not end up on the cutting floor. You of all people should know that it will all work out!

    Like

  3. Steph says:

    I’m not a wordcount person either…just worrying about whether I got it right is enough for me! But I understand what drives it. It’s always fascinating to read what drives other people and what concerns people when they’re writing! Thanks for writing this!!

    Like

  4. Laffers18 says:

    I don’t do wordcount.

    It’s quality not quantity, right? Admittedly, I’m not so good at quality either BUT when reading something by someone else it doesn’t matter how long or short it is as long as the substance is there.

    Like

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