Monday, May 16, 2011

In which I admit an addiction

I have a problem. I can admit this now, and I'm working on it.

I'm addicted to word count.

Yeah, I know, a pithy addiction amongst all the other possibilities, but it's kind of wrecking my writing life right now. Because I'm addicted to massive bumps in word count. I keep thinking "oh, if I can just get to 30K words I'll be happy." But then 30K becomes 40K becomes 50K becomes 60K and suddenly I've amassed 15K words in one day because I can't stop. In fairness, I'm pulling large chunks of this WIP from the previous version I wrote, so I'm able to pull together 15K words in one day without actually writing every single one of those words, but you'd think I'd be happy. You think I'd be amazed.

But I wanted more.

I've gotten to 52K words in two weeks, which is INSANE for me. I'm a slow writer, a slow plotter, and I don't always write every day. That many words would usually take me a couple of months, and a complete manuscript usually takes me about 6 months. But because I can pull entire scenes from the previous version of the WIP, I have seen massive bumps in my word count in just a couple of days. And I'm hooked now. Previously I would have been happy with 2K words in one day, but now I'm looking at 6K-8K each time I sit down and it feels. So. Good.

It doesn't help that I can see the word count right in the bottom of the screen. It's a constant reminder, a constant check, and even if I write a great scene I sometimes get ticked that it's only 200 words. In a way it's a good impetus to keep writing and finish out the first draft faster, but it sometimes overtakes the creativity of the process. In school we learned about two types of business models - quantity and quality. As writers we walk a line between shoveling out crap and polishing up the diamonds in that crap. Different writers take different approaches to that first shoveling out of crap. Me, I like to polish as I go along, which is why my word counts tend to be lower per day than some first draft writers. Upping the volume of words I produce can have a dangerous effect on this type of writing.

What about you? Are you addicted to checking word count? Does it drive you crazy like it drives me crazy (say yes and make me feel better)?


Tere Kirkland said...

I'm the same way about word count when I'm drafting, almost like I'm competing with myself for a personal best.

Of course, when I'm editing, I'm usually looking for the number to go down. Ironic, isn't it? ;)

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I was thinking along the lines of Tere, actually! When I pay attention to word count, it's usually because I'm trying to reduce it.

I recently was asked to reduce a manuscript by 10,000 words. I did it, but I became obsessive!

Ex: If I call Aunt Maryett just Maryett, I lose one word every time she's mentioned!! (Then I was disappointed to discover that Maryett was mentioned only 6 times ...)

Libby said...

You are not alone. I check my word count as I go along, thanks to Scrivener I see it constantly. I need 3500 to feel good about a day. :)

Christina Lee said...

I usually come up short at first (and yes, polishas I go along)- but I do become obsessed with "finishing"!

Lola Sharp said...

YES. I love to watch my word count go up, too. :)

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Those are some impressive numbers. I do watch word count but I wouldn't say I'm addicted. Keep it rolling.