The Word Count Monster

The biggest problem I always have when I start to write a novel is getting into the five-digit range. Once I get past 10,000 words, things become a lot easier for me. But it’s so easy to get discouraged when your word count is barely over 4,000 and you know you have about 56,000 words left to write. And then you have to somehow connect plot and characterization and all sorts of crazy literary genius into that space and make it fit in those words and ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh suddenly 60,000 words doesn’t sound like enough but you know that you’re probably not going to be able to write any more than that.

And when I say “you” I mean “me.”

But the important thing is to remember your road blocks. Your own personal limitations. Because once you do that, you can conquer them.

My own biggest roadblocks come right before 10,000 and right after 20,000 words – for different reasons. After 10,000, I have enough plot to write an entire book, but after 20,000, I start to doubt it. Things fall through. I get stuck in the muddy, mucky middle.

I feel like a lot of this is precisely because of the relationship between word count and results in our minds. The word count is the most tangible way to show off the fact that you have been writing and improving your manuscript (if we go along with the idea that, for a rough draft at least, more is better). If your word count isn’t improving, then what’s the point? If you haven’t accomplished x, y and z by some arbitrary number in your mind, then have you failed?

These are the times that it gets difficult to keep writing. There are so many excuses to avoid your WIP. You’re tired all the time – not physically, but you are ARTISTICALLY DRAINED AND NO ONE UNDERSTANDS YOUR SUFFERING!!!@!@$#@#!!!!111!

Not a good place.

I personally have to thank my writing group for helping me to keep going through those bad patches, and for telling me when a WIP was not going to pay off in the end and gently extracting me from the throes of self-pitying drama. I also stake a lot in comfort carbs, which are of extreme importance, especially around the 20,000 word mark.

So for all of you writers out there: how do you conquer the word count monster?


4 thoughts on “The Word Count Monster

  1. Carbs are fantastic for mid-novel uncertainties.

    They’re also good for early-novel worries, pre-novel wondering, end-of-novel fears, and post-novel anxiety.

  2. Hello, I enjoy your weblog. Is there something I can do to receive updates like a subscription or something? I’m sorry I am not familiar with RSS?

  3. Hi Shayne,

    At this point I update so infrequently that I don’t have an RSS feeder or anything set up. If you like, you can follow me on Twitter (sayitwhirly), since it updates when I post here.

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