The Craft 002: Word Counts (Words Count)

Started the day with just over 6,000 words on The Things We HidePlan to top 10,000 before I have to leave for the day job later this afternoon.

When I first began considering myself an actual writer, I had idealized it in my mind, thinking that I wouldn’t have to work anymore, be financially set for the rest of my life. Oh, how wrong I was.

A friend of mine, amazing fantasy author Carol Berg, was an engineer for IBM before she published her first book. It was she who told me the reality of the publishing world. She said that she didn’t start seeing real return on her books until after the third in the trilogy of the Rai-Kirah was published. If you haven’t read her work, you’re truly missing out on something special. It was then and only then that she felt comfortable giving up her job to write full time. I wanted it to happen immediately, as I have such an incredible passion for writing.

When I sit down to write each week, I have in mind a certain word count that I want to attain by the end of the day. I tend to write a couple times a week, starting very early in the morning. I don’t subscribe to the “you must write every day” school of thought.  Nobody has time for that. Not unless you’ve already published several novels or had screenplays optioned by a studio. Writing is a business like any other. I remember promising myself that I would “never” give up my creative side and make writing a business.  A classic case of “never say never,” I suppose. I’ve since integrated the business side of writing into the creative side, which serves longevity in the creative arts.

The day’s word count is always fluid, never set in stone. Many things can happen during the writing process that might influence how many words you are actually able to write. For instance, today I decided that I would create an actual outline for this book in Word instead of Excel.  My previous books were all outlined in a spreadsheet that tended to become cumbersome as I got deeper into the story. This one is created in standard outline format in which I will give brief descriptions of the scenes and the characters involved.

All this will sound terribly dreary to those who do not work in a creative pursuit. However, these are the details of the job, just like any job. We do a lot of things we don’t really want to do, but do them so we continue to get paid.

Some writers don’t like to get bogged down in counting words. I use them as goals, as that’s how I’m motivated. It’s a useful tool to know where you are and where you “should be” in your story. Of course, word count will change dramatically in the rewriting phases. I tend to overwrite, because I feel it’s easier to remove things than it is to add them.

The first draft is used to get the general idea and theme of the plot down on paper (or screen, as the case may be). I already have a good idea of who my protagonist is, and who the antagonist(s) is/are. I may draft some character profiles as I go, which further slows down the word counts, as I’m continuously making notes.


Writing a novel, for me, engages many of my creative senses. As a ritual, I tend to create a mock book cover for the project, changing it as my perception and grasp of the story matures. I spent part of the afternoon yesterday harvesting photos and other delicious pieces of art on Pinterest, which I will someday — sooner rather than later — use those pieces for a type of vision-board, which I’ll create on my computer. It will be set as my background photo so that every time I sign in, I’ll see it. It’s far too cumbersome to create a physical board to hang on my wall.  That takes way too much time and resources for me to sacrifice for a tool.

Another ritual I have, which I typically only use in the colder months, is to burn candles in my office while writing. I favor citrus-y smells, and am currently hooked on Jolly Rancher candles. Especially orange, lemon, and green apple. I’m thinking about the watermelon scented one as well, but will wait, as I stocked up on the others late last year.



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