Creative Writing: Why I Don’t Focus on My Total Word Count

1259850_calculator_3Yesterday, I wrote about why I don’t have a daily word count goal. Today I wanted to talk about how I don’t start writing with a total word count number in mind for the finished novel.

My novels have varied a LOT in how long they are. The first one is around 190,000 words. It’s lengthy, but it sets the scene of Herezoth and its history as well as tells a specific story about it. Book two is around 150,000. Book three is even shorter than that. And it keeps getting shorter, because I’m editing the heck out of the end (Go me!) It’ll probably end up around 115,000 words. Still a decent size. Writing fantasy novels–a genre that tends to be a bit lengthier than say, romance or adventure or crime fiction–I feel like I should legitimately hit at least 90 or 100k, because if I didn’t, I’d take it as a sign my world most likely isn’t developed enough. But beyond that, I don’t let myself care about word count.

WORRYING TOO MUCH ABOUT A WORD COUNT TOTAL MEANS IT’LL BE THAT MUCH HARDER TO CUT WHERE YOU NEED TO MAKE CUTS.

And that section title, in a nutshell, explains why I don’t let myself care. Deleting scenes and passages I’ve worked hard on and kind of like, or really like, is hard enough to do without freaking out that it’s bringing down my word count. Good heavens, I’m in the process of chopping the heck out of “The King’s Sons,” like I said above. It needs it. And the changes are for definitely for the better. I can only imagine what a wreck I’d be if I was worrying about the book already being shorter than the other two. If I felt determined to make it equal to the others in length or something like that…. What a NIGHTMARE!

THE FACT IS, THE RIGHT LENGTH IS THE LENGTH IT TAKES TO DEVELOP YOUR CHARACTERS AND TELL THEIR STORY IN AN ENGAGING MANNER.

Whether that’s 60k, 85k, or 150k words, it doesn’t matter. You might need a novella. Or a short story. No form of fiction is better than another. That word count is totally arbitrary. Let’s put it this way: the only time word count matters is if your readers end up wishing the novel were longer, not because they enjoyed it so much but because you left them with unanswered questions. Or if they feel the story is long and boring and drawn out. Basically, length shouldn’t be a factor. It shouldn’t be something that comes to mind. It shouldn’t draw attention to itself. If it does, I can guarantee you’re doing things wrong.

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6 responses to “Creative Writing: Why I Don’t Focus on My Total Word Count

  1. Thank you for this post. I was feeling particularly guilty that I did fulfill my word count goals for my personal writing challenge this month. After day four, I struggled with quality. I could write 2000 words and it could very well be 2000 words of rubbish. So I abandoned that plan to simply write what I could get out of my head and not force anything.

    • your adjustments sound good to me, Erika! it’s all about the individual person, I think. Some people just get really motivated and produce quality content pushing themselves with goals. I don’t. It seems like you’re the same way 🙂 I never like to force things, like you said.

  2. When I started reading this I was worried. I have a tendency of not paying any attention to word count until I go to print and realize how many pages there are and how many words. I just write and write until I’m finished and then worry about editing and cutting things. It was nice to read that it shouldn’t matter

    • I’m glad you liked the post! I think you’re doing things the right way, for sure. The content should always trump word count. What needs to be there should be, and what doesn’t, shouldn’t. 🙂

  3. It sounds trite, but I like to say, forget about word count and make the words count instead.

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