Monday, January 3

Word Count Phobia


When I began to write my first book, I didn't do much research once I hit the 55,000 word count number. Didn't bother to read what sort of a book that constituted, of course. Merely assumed that was my goal and started writing. It sure sounded like alot to churn out, and I worried I wouldn't make it. Hah!

At about 45,000 words it became clear I would drastically overshoot my goal. Since it was a romantic suspense, I could not rush through the chases, attempted murders and love scenes. Back to research I went, where I happily discovered that single titles are, in fact, supposed to be twice as long. Because I am an inveterate worrier, I did panic for a moment about doubling the size, and then resumed writing. The end came around 96,000 (after checking my word count obsessively every time I logged on).

Book two felt easier, because I knew what that length felt like. I knew it to be attainable. More importantly, as a plotter, I had an easy road map to follow. Book three was even easier. Set on a Caribbean cruise, I knew how many chapters to devote to each stop on the cruise as well as each night on the boat. Simple math (because I'm incapable of any other kind). Once they landed on Puerto Rico, I had to be 1/3 of the way finished. St. Maartens 1/2 way, etc. The plot fell in place around it with the precision of a pleated skirt. 98,200 words - no problem!

And while you'd think the experience of three completed books would make book four a piece of cake...you'd be wrong. I am currently at 39,000 words. And I am in a panic. What if I don't have enough plot to sustain 98,000 words? Sure, I have an outline. But that only gives you a list of plot points to hit. It in no way indicates how much time to spend on each one. Invariably I guess wrong, anyway. An event I outlined as a single chapter ends up as three. Something I thought I could stretch to two barely comes to twelve pages. What if I get through everything and it is short? Do I have enough twists and turns? Is my black moment dark enough? How long do I have to make my characters wallow in that dire turning point before I can tie the bow on their happily ever after?

The practical side of my mind knows I'll get there. My books are dialogue intensive, and I'm a wordy person myself, so it should not be a problem. But I still look ahead with crossed fingers and more than a little apprehension. Does this happen to anyone else?

7 comments:

  1. I always worry about the wordcount. Will I hit it? Is there too much story for what I've planned? Are my characters being superficial because I only have X-number of pages alloted for this scene...the list goes on.

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  2. Wordcount is one of my biggest worries, esp since I write catas. Sometimes it's tough to get in everything in the alloted #.

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  3. I blissfully wrote my latest WIP without paying any attention to the word count and delivered a bouncing baby mystery that weighed in at a whopping 150,000 words. I know the chance of my catching the interest of an agent with my Baby Huey is slim so I'm currently "unwriting" my story, paring it down to size. Down to a little over 111,000 and still cutting.

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  4. I usually find I run out of things to say. My mss are usually very short, which is why I shoot for e-pubs. The ones i sub to don't seem to mind a low word count. My last mss topped of out at 52k.

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  5. I'm like Shawn--I write short. The other part is that I LIKE writing short. And reading short. I was tickled when Harlequin shortened up their series books, but I think they're lengthening them again.

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  6. I rarely worry about the word count. I usually come in on the short side and have to plump it up, although Bix's story is going for the long side, so maybe it just depends on the story.

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  7. Ha! Only with NaNoWriMo. Good luck.

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