Word Up

I previously blogged about nanowrimo and how much I love their crazy idea of writing a 50,000 word first draft of a novel in a month.  I still haven't participated in this annual event and likely never will.  But I did try my own modest version of it not too long ago when I wrote either a very long short story or a shortish novella.  I'm not the fastest writer, so I wanted to try pushing myself out of my slowpoke comfort zone and see what would happen when I set a daily goal of 1,000 words.  Come hell or high water, a thousand words per day!  Gibberish welcome.

The nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month for the uninitiated) daily goal is closer to 1,700 words, but I knew that was simply not going to happen.

I feel the need to defend my typing speed here - I'm an extremely fast and accurate typist.  (over 100 wpm)  So, that's not the issue.  It's the painful and yet delightful process of squeezing the exact perfect word out of my cerebellum that takes the time.  And then rewriting it.

But my experiment was a success!  I did manage to crank out 1,000 words each day for nearly 30 consecutive days and I was very pleased with not just the draft ShortVella (you see what I did there) that was the result, but the final product:  THE UNDERCOVER QUEER LADIES BOOK CLUB FOR THE PAINFULLY SHY AND SOCIALLY AWKWARD.  "YUKELBACK" is my sort-of-phonetic acronymic shorthand for that title.

But it was a painful process - most definitely out of the comfort zone.  And a thousand words per day was A LOT to produce without fail, every day.  Let's just say there was some laundry that didn't get done...

So, for novel #5, I've decided to further modify this approach and aim for 500 words per day.  Every day.  (500 words is about a page and a half of double-spaced 12-point Times New Roman with one-inch margins, by the way)  If I stick to this schedule, I'll be done in about seven months.  Which would be spectacular!  Far more efficient than any of my previous efforts.

Why seven months?  For me, these days, my goal in writing a novel is 100,000 words.  Not only does that have a nice ring to it, but it also fits in the ballpark word count of what most publishers consider the "right number" of words for a mystery.  THE BOOK OF KELL came in just under at 99,482.

There are exceptions to the genre word count rules, of course.  (GONE WITH THE WIND was so dang long I had to cut the paperback book in two to make it manageable on my lap.  Or was that MIDDLEMARCH?)  They are guidelines, actually - not rules.  But there are good reasons for those guidelines and even better reasons to follow them.  Plus, 100K just feels right to me.  A lot of the books I read are about that length.  I'm generally not a fan of monstrously long epics, except as doorstops.

It's funny how when you're a reader, you think about the number of pages in a book.  But writers think (oh, how we obsessively think!) about the number of WORDS in the book.  But how do you even know how many words are in a book?  I know how many words are in the books I write because my computer tells me.  But for somebody else's hardcover or paperback book, short of literally and laboriously counting each word, how would one know?

When I was writing my first novel and researching agents and publishers on the side, I began to realize just how important the word count thing was.  So, I took a few of my favorite books and typed on my computer the words from one full page from each.  Then I multiplied that number by the number of pages in the book.  Of course, that was only a rough estimate because not every page in a book is a full page.  And not every page has the exact same number of words on it.  But at least it gave me a clue.

I don't read eBooks, so I don't know if your Kindle or whatever tells you the word count.

Nowadays, if you can think of it, there's probably a website devoted to it.  Enter www.wordcounters.com, which has (unverified) word counts for several books in various genres, but by no means all books.  For example, it is entirely deficient in queer fiction by left-handed people with the initials AB.  I didn't find an explanation of how they came up with the word counts on wordcounters.com, so take it with a grain of salt - but it's interesting info.

If you like words.  Or counting.

This blog post has 828 words in it.

So far, Novel #5 has about 8,777 words in it.  (although I feel a purge approaching)  Just 91,223 to go!  500 at a time.


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