Friday, November 8, 2013

#Wordcount Is a Four-Letter (Non)Word

It's NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which means that my Twitter feed is filled with inspiring posts about people getting 'er done and one very loaded phrase: word count.

Don't get me wrong. I think NaNoWriMo is an amazing concept and I know that it is very successful for a lot of people. But sometimes I see people writing things like: "I wrote 4,000 words today" and I just think, WOW. I don't think I've written 4,000 words in a single day ever in my entire life.

Inevitably, this has led me to guilt or wondering if I'm doing something wrong as a writer. Sometimes I have to give myself the pep talk that I know every writer has heard multiple times throughout their career: everyone's process is different.

One of my problems is that I am an underwriter by nature. My first drafts are usually abominably short--glorified outlines I call them. It's because I'm usually spending them trying to figure out the bare bones of my plot (and also probably from my years writing screenplays where everything was 120 pages long. 120 pages does not a manuscript make). Then in multiple rounds of revisions, I go through and add things like subplots, characterizations, and setting details. Then, usually, in further rounds of revisions, I try to connect the subplots, minor characters and other details to my main plot. Honestly, I should really start calling myself a reviser instead of a writer.

But being an underwriter means that word count can often be a huge enemy. Especially when writing that crucial first draft when I know that what I'm writing isn't necessarily very good or at all living up to the idea in my head, but that I have to somehow muddle my way through it anyhow. Why? I can't revise without a first draft!

So I've learned not to measure my worth by word count. Instead, it's more important for my process to just sit down and write almost every day. Even if it's for half-an-hour or forty-five minutes (and, to be honest, it usually is). I'm the person gritting my teeth and trying my best to ignore that little counter at the bottom of Word. Until the second draft, that is. Then I'm the person who's saying: er, now I need a subplot that will add 15,000 words.

My point is: if you are an underwriter like me, try not to fret too much. I've still written and finished multiple manuscripts of adequate length and you can too. And if you are writing 4,000 words a day: honestly, I am in freak. :-)

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