Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Obsessing Over Word Counts

A fellow writer friend asked me the other day how many words I average an hour when writing.  I had never really thought about it before.  I don't usually focus on my word counts until I feel a story is dragging on and I need to check myself.  But ever since she asked me the question, I've been paying more attention and ending my writing sessions with a tweet about how many words I managed during that time.

I think there are pros and cons to keeping track of your daily word counts.  On the pros side, it's great to keep a record of your progress and quantify just how much you accomplished.  Yesterday I felt I had an unproductive writing night because I was having a tough time with a scene, but when I checked my word count at the end of it, I had ended up writing 1,000 words.  Not so unproductive after all.

On the flip side, a writer should focus on quality over quantity, so instead of trying to just reach a goal of writing a lot of words, it's more important to just choose the right words and make sure you're conveying your story correctly.  Not to mention, that research is as much of the writing process as writing itself, so if you spent an hour of your allotted writing time looking up baseball terminology or the holidays on a Pagan calendar, your word count will be lower that day, but your story will be richer for it.  (Admit it, now you want to write a story of a baseball player who observes Pagan holidays thinking it'll help his stats.  Go for it!)

In truth, once inspiration kicks in, you'll be less inclined to worry about word count because you'll be too busy typing as fast as your thoughts are coming to you. Before you know it, you'll have written more than you realize.  So ultimately, go ahead and keep track, even setting some daily or weekly word count goals for yourself if you like, but don't freak out if you don't hit them.  Just write every day and use those writer block moments to do research for your story!