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AWARD WINNING AUTHOR

Writing in the Sunshine. Writing in the Shadows.


Wednesday, 11 January 2017

It's a numbers game.

You don't have time to stop for tea!
Have you noticed? For people who are meant to deal in words, writers are awfully hung up about numbers. Sales figures, chart positions, numbers of books sold, number of books published. So far, so business driven. Except maybe the last which is perhaps more of a personal milestone event. The Romance Writers of America will give you a name check in their monthly magazine for  5, 10, 25 35, 50 and 75! which I think is a lovely gesture.

But the biggest obsessive number for writers?  Seems to me to be word count. Come on, how often have you seen a Twitter or Facebook or some other post in triumph or despair for a daily, weekly or whatever, count achieved or missed? There's even a month when it becomes a public obsession in the writing community - November, the famous, or infamous Nanowrimo when authors commit to totals and share war stories. I've never done it myself - far too scary - but I know those who have and lived to tell the tale.

But how many words are enough? And how long is your piece of string, Mrs Jones? You can bet, however good your total is for today, there will be someone who can better it. Do these people eat, sleep, go to the bathroom? When you start out you are told by the finger-waggers, and there are some, even in the writing community, who are, in general pretty nice people, that you must do a certain total, every day, even if it means getting up at even stupider o'clock than you do now. It scared me then and it depresses me now.

Because, you know what -  (To use a phrase of the moment, which I've heard continuously on the radio and keep meaning to put into conversations in a book and keep failing to do so, because it is not my speech pattern, except I just did, Result! Yes, I know this is not a book - shall we get back to the point!) I've finally come round to the idea that word count is a very personal and changeable thing. The answer is it's whatever you can comfortably manage while being satisfied with the quality. I'm writing at the moment.(Don't hold your breath, the day job restarts this week.) My daily comfortable word count, derived from years of experience, is somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500 words. That's a 'whole' day with those life pauses - eating, taking in the washing, putting out the bins and so on. Other days - it's whatever I can scramble. Last week I looked up at 11 pm and found out I was still writing. I manage about 3,500 that day, but that was an exception.

A very wise fellow author, who I worked with but never met, (the joys of cyber working) who was an award nominee for non fiction, to whom I was moaning that the only time I had to write was on the train into work and was therefore only managing 200 words a day, pointed out that by the end of the week I had 1,000 words. It cheered me up, and I've never forgotten it. Problem comes when the regular word count is zero, but that is another story.

So the point of all this rambling seems to be that you write what you can, when you can. But it probably won't stop you counting the words. It hasn't stopped me.

8 comments:

  1. Write what you can when you can... and ignore what everyone else is doing, or say they're doing. I refuse to let word counts become a competitive sport! Keep on keeping on.

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    1. So right, Kath. It is a competitive sport. You can only do what you can do - life is funny that way :)

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  2. What Kath says. Very wise too. But... if since you've shown us yours, mine's usually about 200 words a day at the start of book and rises to a max of 1400 at the end. I've also (belatedly some would say) discovered that if I MAKE myself write 200 words per day, I make progress. Who'd have thunk it, eh?

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    1. Hi Chris - It's the thing about balance - encouraging yourself to do something, but not beating yourself up if you really can't. And I didn't notice the since :)

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  3. Apologies for the rogue 'since'... sometimes I even write 200 words that make sense!!

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  4. This is such a reassuring post, Evonne. I try not to beat myself up if progress is slow and I can see that all words written add up. However, when I can get more words written in a day, I get fully immersed in the story and get to know my characters better and that in turn makes me want to write more the next time.

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    1. Thanks Jan. Good to know the ramblings are useful! I know it is disheartening when the MS never seems to grow, but every word is progress. I'm indulging myself at the moment, as I want to get the piece I am working on finished, but after that, there won't be a lot going on, as other things have to take over. Keep at it :)

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  5. I should have added that writing a lot doesn't happen very often and I'd be very happy to write 200 words a day and see the total grow.

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