Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Thoughts on Word Counts

First of all, did you see the winners of the Query Haiku Contest over at Colleen Lindsay's blog, did ya, did ya? Honorable mention, bay-bee! Yeah!!!!

Second, and wholly unrelated to writing, but my mother got the foster kitties that are living in my bathroom all these toy mice and pirate-themed cat toys. Arrrrr! I'll try to post photos of the kitties some time, they're quite adorable...and adoptable. If you live in the Washington DC metropolitan area and want a kitty, let me know!

But to the point, I've been lurking around lots of fellow writer's blogs lately and noticed that they like to put up the word counts of their WIPs, and this includes very successful published writers.

And I realized something...I don't do that. In fact, I have a feeling I shouldn't do that, because I'd become obsessed with how many words I've written instead of how far I am in the story and whether or not it's any good.

For better or for worse, I did this with Surviving Matewan. I just focused on trying to write a good story and didn't check the word count until I was done. Of course, I ended up with an 81,000 word manuscript, which is too long for YA/Middle Grade. Even more impressive, when I made another round of revisions aimed at reducing the word count, I ended up with 89,000 words. Check out my mad editing skillz! But still, my attitude is story first, word count second.

That works for me, it probably won't work for others. Once I have the story, I can shape it and tweak it until it's an acceptable length. Plus, I still have a bad habit of telling and not showing, so there's a lot of fat in that 89,000 (now down to 87,500) word manuscript that can be cut.

With Knights of Avalon, I've revised my strategy slightly. I still don't know what my word count is, but I've learned more about what's considered acceptable in different genres and have a word count target in mind (75,000). I also have a better feel now for when I'm going long and what my word count probably will be based on how many pages I've written. We'll see how that works. Right now, my main concern is with pacing and bringing together all these characters who are scattered about at the beginning of the story.

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