Recently, a fellow blogger “pingbacked” to one of my Weekly Writing Wrap-Ups in a blog post. (You can read his post here: Word waterboarding! Less may be more (garyheilbronnauthor.wordpress.com) In the post, Mr. Heilbronn said he believes authors tend to obsess over word count instead of focusing on how they write and what they write. Authors are more concerned with slapping something down to increase their word count rather than on the quality of their work. Let me start by saying that I’m writing this post simply because I thought it would be interesting to discuss the other side of the issue. Even though I’m not in agreement with Mr. Heilbronn, I’m going to say thank you to him right now for including a link to my blog. I always appreciate the extra exposure and enjoy seeing who reads or has visited my blog before. I also enjoy reading other people’s views and ideas on writing because I am still fairly inexperienced as a writer and always willing to learn. With that being said, here are 5 reasons why I like word counts:
1. They keep me motivated.
There have been plenty of times when I haven’t felt like writing, but having a looming word count sent me back to the computer. I started doing “Weekly Writing Wrap-Ups” every Friday as a method of personal writing accountability, and those have been so motivating. Knowing I have X amount of words to write helps me to keep writing, whether or not I really want to. If I didn’t have a word count, I doubt I’d be writing as much as I do now.
2. They keep me on track.
I don’t have time to get distracted if I have a couple hundred more words to write that night. I’ve found that having a word count keeps the pressure on me and keeps me from getting distracted by the internet (my main temptation) or anything else since I have a goal to make.
3. They help to prevent writer’s block.
Since I’ve started my word counts, the evil writer’s block hasn’t visited. Since I have a goal to make and words to write, I can’t afford to waste time worrying if my idea is good enough or debating tiny details that can lock me up. I really need that pressure to help restrain my writer’s block from attacking.
4. They help me finish a story.
This is more about NaNoWriMo (completing a single 50,000 word novel in a month). I’ve read a lot about it and have wanted to attempt it for a while now. I’m super excited to participate for the first time this year. Because of the crazy amount of words I will have to write in a month’s time, there will be no chasing after the bright, new shiny idea that suddenly looks so much cooler than the one I’m currently working on. I’m so bad about this. I’ll be writing and writing about a certain idea and in love with it, and then a new idea presents itself, and I’m off to the races with that one and never finish the first. If I have a constant word count pressure on me, I won’t be able to do that. If I quit my current idea, I’ll never make my word count. It forces me to finish the idea I started with.
5. They are AWESOME for rough drafts.
Word counts are meant for rough drafts. For me, rough drafts are all about getting it down, getting it done and getting it written. I’m not thinking about if this is the right word or the best word, or any of that. I have an idea, I have characters, and I have to write it. Word counts help keep me moving with the story, help me to not get tangled up with picking out the best word, or stuck on researching every little sentence. Those details come in the editing stage. Once I reach the editing stage, then I wouldn’t worry about word count at that point; I’d be focused on the right words and not how many of them there are.
So, which side of the issue do you fall on? Do you like word counts or not?