Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Keeping Count

The other day I realized that I had surpassed the 30,000 word count mark on the newest story I'm working on.

There's a couple things that stand out to me about this.  One, how did I manage to not only miss, but pass that mile marker by over 3,000 words before noticing?  And two, why is that number so important?

I'll chalk up the first to a very stop-and-go writing schedule, being forever busy (quite often on purpose), and the current exploration of both a point of view and genre quite alien to me - but the second?  Hmph - your guess is as good as mine.

When I set out on my first novel, I had a number as my goal.


For some reason (yes, there is a reason - a quite nerdy one at that), I picked this number and told myself that if I could hit this word count I could consider myself legit - not just a writer, but a writer who could write a novel.

Yes, I'm quite aware it takes more than a word count to make a good book, but when you are the type of person who often gets in your own way, an arbitrary goal can be liberating.

Surprisingly, it really was.  As soon as I hit that target, it suddenly felt like the pressure was off.  I could turn and twist and refine the story any which way I pleased because half the battle was already fought.  (I realize now as the completed manuscript sits at just over 109,000 words that I had no reason to worry about hitting my target.)

Really, in a lot of writing there is a goal word count.

On my college newspaper, a news brief was supposed to be below 250 words, while an article should be between 400 and 800.  For work, a well optimized web page has at least 300 words.  Flash fiction should be less than 1,000 words.  With NaNoWriMo, the bulls-eye sits at 50,000 words (in a month no less!!!).

So again I ask myself, why is the number so important - when I'm writing for me, when I'm writing to write.

Well... why the hell not?

It propels me forward and gives me something to aim for, gives me a point at which I can relax, stop worrying (because of course I'll worry about something so why not let it be something arbitrary), and just write.  And isn't that the goal?

Eh, enough counting - it's time to write.

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