That Terrible Thing Called “Word Count”

After some careful perusing of Nova Ren Suma’s blog (which might be one of my favorite author blogs, like, ever), I came across this post, about her struggle with word count and a new experiment: write 10,000 words a day.

Ten thousand. 10k. No matter how you swing it, that is a HEFTY sum for one day. A sum I can’t even think about without breaking into a cold sweat and hyperventilating into a paper bag.

The inspiration comes from this article on the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America website, aptly titled “How I Went From Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day.” In it, author Rachel Aaron describes the methods she used to achieve this goal. She even uses a neat chart!

The article itself is fairly long, though it is worth the read, but here’s a quick summary of Aaron’s tactics:

  • Know what you want to write before you begin
  • Figure out the times when you’re most productive
  • Be excited about the scenes you want to write

Simple enough, right? I mean, I’ve got essentially the entire plot of the novel I’m working on mapped out in my head; I tend to write best late at night or early in the morning; I’m at the point in my novel where all the fun stuff starts happening concerning cute boys, major drama, and blackmail.

So what am I doing wrong?

Nothing. I’m not doing anything wrong. I feel like I need to scrawl that thousands of times onto a chalkboard until I believe it’s true: I’m not doing anything wrong. Just because it’s an accomplishment if I make 200 words in one day, it doesn’t make me any less of a writer than someone who’s able to crank out 10,000 a day. Even though, sometimes, it sure as hell feels like that.

Usually once I’ve entered hour three of my writing, I’m ready to throw either my laptop or myself off the roof. Staring at the same exact sentence for hours at a time can do that to a girl.

I’ve tried to change myself, to mold myself into this image of the perfect writer, one who believes so strongly in her novel, it seems to naturally flow through her. But I think I’m coming to terms with it: I am not a fast a writer. I am not a writer who’s able to write mass amounts at a time.

This past June, I took part in Camp NaNoWriMo, which is basically exactly like the normal NaNo, only you’re put in a cabin and the admins make jokes about s’mores. I reached ten thousand words of my rewrite (alas, if I’d only known to write 10,000 a day…) and promptly gave up. But here’s the problem I’ve found with NaNo: I tend to spend so much time worrying about the word count that I completely disregard an even more important factor–the writing. When everyone on Facebook began posting screenshots of their winner ribbons from Camp NaNo, I was so focused on the fact that I was, once again, a loser of NaNo, that I failed to realize something.

Those 10,000 words? The ones that put me at exactly 1/5 of the way through NaNo? The ones that made me repeatedly slam my head into the wall? Well, those words formed into sentences which formed into chapters which formed into the best writing I’ve ever done. Seriously. I’m the type of writer who complains more about writing than actually, you know, writes, but as I reread what I wrote, I realized that it was actually, genuinely, truly good.

10,000 words I love versus 50,000 I hate? Way more fulfilling than reaching 50,000 words in a month ever could be.

I’m just not that type of writer. One who writes a lot, and writes it fast. There are writers like that, and it works for them, and that’s awesome. But it’s not me.

And isn’t writing all about being no one but yourself anyway?

So, what do you think? Would you be able to hit 10,000 words in one day? Would you even try? I’d love to know!

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Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “That Terrible Thing Called “Word Count”

  1. kerufaye

    It takes me a month to write one chapter, so 10,000 words in one day isn’t really feasible for me. Maybe if my book could write itself.

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