Friday, April 13, 2012

Word Count vs. Words That Count

As many of you know, I'm in major crunch mode. I gave myself a deadline of finishing my first Indulgence category romance by Monday the 16th. As you can see by the handy-dandy word counter in the side bar, I still have a ways to go. BUT, I do my best work when under the gun, so I'm doing a-ok.

What's really been suffering is this blog! Poor bloggy has been grossly neglected as of late, since I just don't have the time to write epically long posts (What was that? Write short posts, you say? *snort* Yeah, right, as if.) while trying to exceed my daily word count goals in order to make my deadline.

SO...I decided to RE-post one of my oldies-but-goodies (originally posted on 5-25-10) that has a huge relevance to what I'm going through in my writing at the moment. I haven't edited the original content of this post even though I feel the writing is sub-standard and it's killing me not to make changes to make sure it's up to snuff. However, I think either way, it'll get my point across. Make sure you weigh in on the comments section! I'll take the time to respond and discuss. :)

Ciao, bellas!

P.S. Now that I'm a writer with contractual deadlines, I absolutely and positively understand the need for word count goals. But I still think we need to evaluate our obsession with high counts versus slightly less counts with higher quality. End verbal disclosure. :)


It’s in the progress posts on our blogs. It’s in little widgets in our sidebars. It’s what we obsess over. It’s our Literary Odometer.

It’s our WORD COUNT.

As writers we measure our progress by this term. It’s universally understood in the writing community as the success – or lack thereof – of our daily, weekly, or cumulative progress on our current Works In Progress (WIPs).

It seems that the majority of writers have a specific goal in mind. Whether it’s 500 words a day or 5000 words a day, it’s a way of keeping oneself motivated and on-point with an estimated date of completion for a rough draft.

But at what point does that ever-present, ever-looming Word Count goal become counter-productive?

If we get wrapped up in how many words we can “put on paper” as opposed to the QUALITY of those words, we’ll officially be hurting ourselves when it comes time for revisions. I can write 2000 words in one day and feel like I accomplished a whole helluva lot, but when I go back to revise that section, if the words weren’t quality to begin with, I bet I’m going to be spending a lot more time trying to fix them than if I would’ve just taken a little more time to make sure they were somewhat decent to begin with.

I’m not saying that our rough drafts will be all but flawless and revisions will be a piece of cake with this method – the day that happens will be the day I turn down dark chocolate (NEVER). But what I am saying, is that maybe we should find a happy medium.

If I sit down to work on my WIP and I only have a few hundred more words than when I started, I shouldn’t have to feel that “OMG, I suck” sense of failure. I should be able to look at those few hundred words and say, “That was a really good addition to that section – nice job, Maxwell.”

So I propose that we change our concerns of a generic Word Count, to a positive mindset of putting down Words That Count.

What do you think?

Do we have too much emphasis on our Word Count? Do you feel that sometimes a high Word Count compromises the quality? Or do you feel that a strict Word Count goal is the only thing that keeps you moving forward at a steady pace?

**This post has a word count of 424, and THE shortest post I've ever written, ironically enough.**


  1. Words that COUNT are a thousand times more important than your word count.

    I've tried those days where you type 10000 words in one day. Too bad I don't have a single one of those words in my current draft.

  2. I know what you mean. Last week, I wrote a scene that was almost 900 words, but I feel like it was just meandering and didn't really add anything to the story. I hate when that happens. I'd much rather have half that and have it impact the story in someway.

  3. I think word counts are good for goal setting. Not to obsess over them, but to give yourself something to shoot for. Thank goodness for revisions!

  4. I like having word count goals, but recently I've had to let go of those to fit in a new subplot. Words got moved, chopped, and rearranged so I just gave up keeping track of word count for a few days.

    Doing so has been good for me. I've started accepting that writing 250 quality words is a great.

    It's really just not productive to force out a bunch of crappy words. Like you've said, it'll just come back to haunt you.

  5. I need some sort of goal to shoot for but I never give myself a high word-count goal. I'd rather write more than my goal then fail to reach it. It's then that trying to achieve a word count becomes counter-productive for me.

  6. I've recently finished a short story for submission that had a maximum word count requirement of 5,000 words. When I "finished" writing the story it had over 7,000. Let met tell you, trying to cut 2,000 words from a SHORT story is hell, but it helped me learn a lot about the difference between word count and words that count. It made me reevaluate how I said things and how to get bigger/better impact from fewer words.

    Word count goals are great tools, as you said, to help keep us motivated, but if what we write to meet that goals is garbage that ultimately gets cut out, we're no farther along for having written them.

    Great post, Gina!

  7. Nice post Gina. And you're right, words that count are significantly better than word count.

    I'm supposed to be on blog break to write but all I've been able to come up with is pure garbage. So I stopped writing. I'm not blocked, the story is there trying to get out, but every time I try to tell it, it just comes out wrong. So I've actually stopped writing. I NEED something, but I don't know what it is to make the words better.

  8. I would say at the beginning that word count matters, it gives you a place to reach, a goal in mind.

    Once the novel is written and revising starts you begin molding the words and you start to lose quite a few of those words. Some people panic, others understand that the story is getting to be better.

    I found out the other day that my word count is far too long for the young adult novel I was writing. I panicked because all of my story line was needed, however when handing it over to my wonderful crit partners I realized that I had a lot of cutting to do and with that the line count started to dwindle. It made me feel awesome knocking some words down.

    So I'd have to say that a word count is a guide... nothing else.

  9. I think there's some value to pure word count. at least for someone who, like me, is a bit of a perfectionist, I think there's value in a word count goal to help you just write the damn thing. Then you can adjust from there.

    But I also think it's OK to be forgiving of ourselves and our word count. I'll take 300 good words, thank you very much. :)

  10. If I gave myself a word count, I'd never write another thing.

    Word count = discipline = work = creativity killer.

    I'm at my best when I'm slacking off, playing with words, having fun.

  11. I don't impose a word count on myself. If I'm not feeling especially creative one day, I'll work on a short story or a blog post...but not my novel. I'm not in such a hurry that I need an artificial number of words to pound out.

    Of course, that's just me...the unpublished.


  12. Word count is definitely a great motivation tool, especially during the first draft -- but I agree, sometimes, it's better to have words that count. I'm not sure a high word count compromises the quality; it all depends on the writer. :)

  13. I vote for words that count. Great post!

  14. It is definitely more important to have words that count, but I find that the word count helps propel me further. I need a mix of both. After all, once I'm done, I need to have something to edit out, right?

  15. It's hard not to be a slave to the word coutn isn't it? For me, I write either 2000 words a day or spend at least a certain amount of time trying to - whatever comes first!

  16. Ah, one of my favorite topics! Glad you re-posted. For me, word count keeps me going and motiviated, but there's definitely a cutoff point where word production becomes counterproductive (probably somewhere around 3K daily), and it definitely has to do with both how many good words my brain can actually produce per day and how many words I can edit/polish per day. (There's a burnout factor, too--too many per day and I have no desire to keep up the pace.) But if you're facing a hard deadline, the considerations definitely change--they have to! Also, I can write more words at certain points in the writing process--near the beginning and near the end--than I can in the middle, because in the middle third I have to stay aware of whether the book is on the right track, whether what I've got is working, etc ...

    1. I agree, Serena. There's a point where my brain turns to mush and I start writing scenes where tension in the room becomes "palatable" as opposed to "palpable." LOL

      But, I'm the type of person who works best under pressure, probably for no other reason than I'm a HUGE procrastinator so I never leave myself a choice. So my word counts are WAY higher during crunch time. As I'm finding out for the first time this week since I started this journey. ;)

      Thanks for posting, girl!

  17. Agreed! (I'm watching my word count.)

  18. I average four to six books (novels and novellas) for Kensington Publishing every year, along with my own "self-published" series, numerous blogs and up to a thousand (yes, a one followed by four zeroes) emails a day. If I didn't set word count goals, I would never finish on time. However, the number isn't the prize do much as the fact that the goal forces me to put my butt in the chair, open the current WIP and work on it. Some days I may write 500 words, and I've had many days where I've written 10k words, but no matter how many I actually get down on paper, the book, its world and characters, moving the story forward and expanding on whatever warped idea is percolating in my brain--well, that's the ultimate goal. Numbers are just that--numbers. Actual words and what they accomplish within the context of the WIP are what count.

    1. and that should read "so much," not DO much! sorry...

  19. Hey Gina, wanted to stop by and say hi! And goddammit I told you to let me know when you write a new blog!


Take a few seconds to commment, I'd love to hear your thoughts...