Sometimes on Twitter I’ll see fellow writers post things like “1k down and it’s not even 10am! Not a bad morning,” and “Finally hit 60k on this manuscript!” and “Trying to eek out another 5k this weekend.” When writing, word counts can be a good way to keep track of the work you’ve done and the work you have left to do. It’s satisfying to see those numbers creep up and get you closer to a complete story.
Confession: I don’t do word counts.
If you asked me, “Annie, how many words is The Chance You Won’t Return?” I’d get all shifty-eyed and say, “Oh, um, like 80? 80k? That’s a number, right?” And really, I can only estimate that from when I was adding my word count to my queries. My current WIP? I honestly have no idea what that word count is. I think I’m about a third of the way through the story, but I have no idea what that means for how many words will end up on the page.
I can totally see how keeping word counts and setting word count goals is a fantastic way to keep motivated and have a better sense of how your novel is growing. But I get more motivated by seeing sections done and by knowing that the scene that’s been in my head for a while is finally written. Maybe it’ll take a hundred words or maybe it’ll take ten thousand. To me, the actual word count doesn’t mean anything in relation to what I’ve put on the page.
The first time I saw people reference word counts in relation to their own writing routine, I thought there was something wrong with me. Should I be keeping track of how many words I write when I sit down with my WIP? How much is enough? What’s normal? Aren’t 5ks road races?! But I’ve come to learn that it’s okay if I don’t track my progression by word count. It doesn’t mean I’m not getting work done or that I’m not as professional as other people. It just means that I have a different process. And with writing, there are so many different processes you can use to keep working. Don’t feel pressured to hit 2k on a given day just because someone else on Twitter has. Do what works for you and your story. Make your words count–no matter how many of them are on the page.
(image: Willi Heidelbach)