Over Count

Your Questions About Word Count Answered! The article promised, so I clicked on the link to read it.

Word count is one of those writerly things that still manages to elude me. There’s a lot of talk about it on the context of publishing; for example, the query letter guidelines that I looked up when preparing my pitch materials emphasized that the title, word count, and genre should all be included in the very first sentence. So clearly this is a Very Important Thing.

The article was helpful overall: 80,000 words being the recommended middle-of-the-road rule of thumb for most genres and some explanations about why certain genres might go longer or shorter.

But it wasn’t helpful to me.

Because my work-in-progress is already over 200,000.

And counting.

I’ve been stewing on it ever since. On the one hand, my reasonable brain says: “don’t get hung up on word count nonsense- get the story down on paper first and then figure out what to cut.” But another part of my mind says: “Is this a fool’s errand? Am I just writing a massive, masturbatory masterpiece that will never see the light of day because every agent will see the giant word count and Hard Pass without a second look?” (So many innuendos, so little time…) And yet another part of my mind says: “Every word you write now might get cut!!! Do you really need all these words? Why are you using so many words!!!”

This last one is rather frantic, and questions my every choice, making it difficult to put down any words at all.

I tell myself that I’m a writer in the service of this story, not the other way around. It needs to exist before it can evolve. It needs to be written before it can be rewritten. And if it’s just too big to shave down into a single publishable product, well then maybe it can be doled out in episodes like Dickens.

But I’ve definitely lost momentum. All this is coming at a rather awkward time as it is: last night I thought I’d finished another chapter- I added it into the main manuscript, I prepared to post it on my backup site, I was ready to post it and toast my progress with a shot of whiskey, but at the very last minute something distracted me. I’d already begun work on the following chapter and, in a burst of inspiration, had churned out several unexpected pages leading up to the action. Somehow it was these pages that made me rethink my story arc and I realized that my new chapter- the one that was a single mouse-click away from completion, actually belonged three chapters later. And I couldn’t count it as done until I had the other three chapters in place.


It is getting to the point where I’m beginning to wonder if I’m trying to not make progress. At the beginning of the month I told myself I would reward myself when I completed five more chapters. I completed three in less than two weeks. The remaining two continue to elude me. Maybe I need a better reward.

Anyway… Writer problems, amiright?

~ by Gwydhar Gebien on August 21, 2018.

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