Word Count

I do wonder if professional writers concern themselves with word count as much as I do. I assume they must, at least to the extent of “Have I written my 2,000 words for the day? I have! Excellent. Crack open the wine, Jeeves.”

It’s bizarre how much self-validation I attach to what I’ve written in a day, the scale being roughly:

Nothing at all? Bad Dan. Very bad.

Less than 500 words? Poor effort. Buck up.

500-1000 words? Solid day. Good job.

1000+? Woop!

It wasn’t ever thus, though. For the first six months or so, June to December last year, I was plodding along. Slowly but surely, putting down about 300 words a day. Got to the dread middle, in my case the 45K word mark and a chapter where nothing really happens – plenty of character development, relationship building between the protagonists, all that good stuff. But no-one got shot, or sucked into the vacuum of space, or kicked through a plate glass window.

Yawn.

And I couldn’t finish it. Just couldn’t. We left Brazil, went back to the UK for Christmas and New Year. I got a new role in work, went to the States for a week for a conference. Then suddenly it was mid-February and I hadn’t written anything yet in 2012. Yikes.

So what does our hero do in that situation? He buys a bottle of red, sits down and bangs it out. Painfully. It was like pulling teeth. But I got through it. And in the next chapter, something happens. And the next. And actually, all the remaining chapters (which I think is a good sign).

And boom – I’m knocking out ~750 words a day, and the end is in sight. (The end of the draft, at least. The editing . . . that’s something else.)

A final word, in case she ever reads this. My fiancée, God bless her, always at least pretends to be interested when I tell her every single day how much I’ve written, what my total word count’s up to, how much I’ve got left… Got to be pretty tedious for her, really. But every day she smiles, and says “That’s good, Dan.”

She’s right. It is good.

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