Count Wordula

Shoot for Quality not Quantity…

Isn’t that what we’re always told? And yes, I want my work to be one of quality–that’s a no brainer. But let’s be real, here–doesn’t quantity sort of matter too? I wish I was the sort of writer who could write until she’s done and leave it be, without worrying about something as trivial word count. If a story’s done then its done, right?  It shouldn’t matter if it’s 20 pages or 1000.

But I’m just not that sort of writer. Maybe it’s because I’m a freelancer who’s paid in word count increments–if I can just make it to 751 words I’ll make $75 instead of $50! Or maybe it was my college years as an English major that did it. If a professor asks you for 5-7 pages, you’d be a fool to submit 3–I don’t care how high of quality a paper it is! So I just have this hunch that literary agents and publishers are going to care about that stupid number that we’re not supposed to care about: the word count.

Back in the old days, people used to measure length in pages–pages, I tell you! That of course is impossible now with all the different fonts and margin specifications you can play with. My old favorite was making the all the periods size 14 and leaving the text at 12–you’d be amazed at the difference it makes, seriously! But now we have to go with word counts, which is annoying, because that makes it pretty difficult for me to figure out how my novel’s length will compare with those of fiction novels out on the market today. Which leads me to the much asked question:

How many book pages does X number of microsoft word pages equate to?

I don’t know the answer–maybe someone else does, but what with all the little details involved (font, spacing etc.) I’d say it’s pretty difficult to come up with an accurate estimate.  So that’s why we gotta go with word counts, which is irritating because how many novels have you read where the word count is listed? And I’m sorry, but I’m not psycho enough to go and manually count out the words in my favorite novels. I’m also too lazy to google my way towards an estimate. Luckily, I found someone who was not. If you’re a crazy, word count obsessed writer like me (and admit it, you are) you should definitely check out this post from a blog called indefeasible (don’t worry, I had to look up that word too). It’s like porn for word count enthusiasts.

Agent Query (my bible) says that a typical fiction novel should be between 80,000 and 100,000 words, and that agents will generally refuse any first-time novel of more than 110,000-120,000 words. Luckily, this second statistic will not be a problem for me.

The word count of my first draft is 79,108 words.

And I’m actually pretty happy with that. When you get into the 10,000s, one measly thousand or two no es nada. But is it okay to only write 80,000? Is that like writing 5 when your professor has asked for 5-10? I know I shouldn’t fret about it, but I do wonder whether it makes a difference. For me, the ideal would be to come out at 90,000, right smack dab in the middle between 80 and 100. And here’s my other concern: shouldn’t the first drafter be longer so that it can be trimmed down to just the good parts? I suppose, but that’s not how it’s working out for me, so I’m just going to have to go with what I have.  And to tell you the truth, draft two is coming along nicely (er, sort of) and I’m confident that it will be longer than draft 1.


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