Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Friday, August 23, 2013

Are Writers Obsessed With Word Counts?

by Lucy Felthouse

Are writers obsessed with word counts? I can't help but ask the question. At any one time, I'm working on several WIPs, and I have word count trackers in the sidebar of my website. They help keep me focussed, and also spur me along. I'll input the latest numbers, then check out the graph and smile as it creeps along, growing ever closer to my goal. Often, I change the goals, for example if a short story call for submissions has a minimum word count and I end up going over it, which I often do. As long as I don't go over the maximum, it's all good.

But it's easy to become obsessed. Some writers have a goal of writing a certain amount of words every day and get annoyed with themselves if they don't achieve them. Equally, if they exceed that goal, it's a cause for celebration. Many writers (including myself), take part in sprints, for example #1k1hr, which stands for one thousand words in one hour. It's a good way to push on, and if you're the competitive sort, you want to get lots of words down and try and beat the other writers you're #1k1hr - ing with. It's friendly, though, and a good way to get a chunk of words down.

I often find my gaze straying to the bottom of the page where my word count is displayed. I think it's become a habit now. Because I do so many things as well as writing, I don't set myself a minimum daily word count. I don't even write every day. But when I do, I more often than not write down my starting word count and my ending word count so I know what I've done for the day. Naturally, some days are much more productive than others, and I find myself massively productive when I have deadlines looming.

Whatever I'm writing, I'm always conscious of the number of words, which often is crazy. If I'm writing for a call for submissions, then of course I have to stay within the parameters. But if I'm just writing a story and seeing what happens, whether it ends up as a short story, a novella, a novel, etc, then I don't need to keep track of it. However, I still do! I'm not sure if it's a good thing or a bad thing, to be honest. I do like to see what I've achieved (for example I totted up my word count for the year and it exceeded 175,000 words, and that was several weeks ago now!), so maybe that's it. Maybe I'm governing myself.

I don't think that's a bad thing, then. As writers, we don't always know what's going to happen to our words, to our stories, when they're complete. They may get sent off to a publisher and rejected, then sent elsewhere. Or they may be accepted, and we then have to wait quite a while before we see them published, and even longer before we're actually paid for them. So really, it's no surprise many of us watch our word counts so scrupulously. After all, because we may have to wait months, even years, to see our work come to fruition, we need an instant boost, an instant sense of achievement, otherwise we might wonder what we're doing it for.

What do you think? Do you check out your word counts all the time? Or do you just write and don't worry about all that? I'd love to get your thoughts in the comments!

*****

Lucy Felthouse is a very busy woman! She writes erotica and erotic romance in a variety of subgenres and pairings, and has over seventy publications to her name, with many more in the pipeline. These include Best Bondage Erotica 2012, 2013 and 2014 and Best Women's Erotica 2013. Another string to her bow is editing, and she has edited and co-edited a number of anthologies. She owns Erotica For All, and is book editor for Cliterati. Find out more at http://www.lucyfelthouse.co.uk. Join her on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to her newsletter at: http://eepurl.com/gMQb9

6 comments:

  1. I do, but not to the degree that I have a set amount I want to write on any given day. I prefer to get to certain points of a scene or a chapter before I call it quits.

    However, I feel it's necessary to be mindful of word counts going into a new project. I typically write with a specific publisher in mind, so I'll adhere to their guidelines but leave a little wiggle room in case they pass and I need to send to another publisher with different guidelines.

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  2. I think it's more important to tell the story the way you think it should be told. Then, in the revision process, the word count can be increased or decreased as editorial guidelines require.

    Whether it's erotica, mainstream, or literary, quality still counts!

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  3. These days, I almost always have a target word count when I start something new. Not writing beyond the count tends to be more of a problem than getting to the limit.

    I have the devil's time cutting during revisions. I do a lot better if I just sit on myself and don't allow myself to step over that line.

    I do measure my daily progress by word count. Hard not to. But I don't keep the sort of progress bar you do. I'd be too frustrated by how slowly it changed, because I have so little time to write.

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  4. Great comments, everyone. I do love to hear about how other people work :)

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  5. I don't check my word count total. I write my chapters independent of each other and would have to do math to know what the actual total is. When I finish a chapter I check the count to see if it is too high or too low. And that's about it.

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  6. I don't check my word count total either. Like Daryl, I just like to see if the chapter is about the right length. If I set myself a target, I'd likely fail and then I'd get all upset so better to just write and see what happens. Nearly all my stuff comes out long. Very long!

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