Thursday, January 19, 2012

Word Count Measuring Sticks

I'm wrestling with a new dilemma in regards to my writing. The first book in my series, The Path of Light, I wrote until I felt there was a place to end. I didn't pay attention to word count or anything else, I just wrote the story as it played out for me.

Now, since I've released that first book and am currently in the midst of the second, I've been reading all the advice, suggestions and best way to get sales blogs, tweets and Facebook posts. What I'm struggling with is that my first book was over 160,000 words. Most of the advice I've read suggests that books be between 60,000-80,000 words. I nearly kick myself thinking I'd be working on book three now if I'd cut the first one in half.

Then I start thinking that there was really no where in the middle that I would have chopped my first book. Working on this next book, I'm hovering around the 45,000 word mark and feel I'm possibly halfway through the story, but I know there is more to tell. So along with struggling with my characters to get the story told, now I'm spending way to much time wondering over word counts.

It is all silly. I know that I just need to write the story as the story demands. Word counts are simply way points to gauge your progress but can't tell you if your story is finished or not. Sometimes I wonder if I'm wasting my time finding out how best to write according to others and forgetting that I need to write according to me. After all, their story is not my story. Only I know what is best for my story, yet I still find myself wondering....should I stop at 80,000 or should I just stop checking word count and just write until it's done.

Advice is a good thing. I have learned a lot about marketing, suggestions on how to set up a blog, learned to use Twitter and Facebook all thanks to the advice and experiences of others. I think I need to remember that in order to tell my story, I have to forget the advice and simply write. With all the marketing and self promoting, I'm forgetting the most important thing -- I have to write my story, or my characters' story, my way.

Time to switch hats from promoter to writer, it's the hat I'm most comfortable in anyways. I definitely wouldn't be a promoter if not for the writing so I'm going to do what I do best -- write. I wonder if there is some way to hide that word count button so that I will stop looking at it? Oh well, it will at least remind me that I'm making progress every day ... so long as I stop thinking that a specific number should represent an end.

You'd think writing would be enough crazy to deal with and I wouldn't make up new things to drive myself nuts over -- go figure.


  1. Interesting post, Bridget. It's all up to individual perspective, I suppose. There are a great many successful writers (Elmore Leonard, John Steinbeck) who wrote very sparse, spare prose most of the time, and it would be rare for either to approach 160,000 words.

    Personally, my novels (working on five) clock in between 60,000 and 75,000 and I defer to Leonard's contention that reader fill in what you don't much of the time.

    But as you said, whatever serves the story.

  2. Yes, L.H. I think it is very much an individual perspective. I think the funniest thing was that when writing the first book, I never looked at the word count.

    Now, I'm looking at it every few minutes as if that will tell me how my story is progressing.

  3. Hi! I just awarded you the Liebster Award. Please come by and see.