Saturday 17 July 2010

Word Counts

Word Counts! Love them or hate them they are they there with the aim of either making a writer's day or throw them into the deepest despair. Dear Mr Microsoft decided it would be an improvement if you could see your word count in the bottom left hand corner as you type. This is fine if it is a day of flowing letters where you don't even notice the numerals clicking rapidly over until you suddenly glance down and find you have mysteriously added a thousand words.
On the other hand there are those days where every single word has to be drawn out of you like blood out of the proverbial stone. Each one is so painful and takes forever to appear. Those are the days when you keep checking the word count and it appears to go down rather than up. This is equally as mysterious as finding you have added a thousand.I think there is a word count 'dog' that either brings bucketfuls of words or if in a contrary mood sneaks them away from your screen.
As writers and/or academics we are surrounded by word counts. Book lengths, essay lengths, thesis lengths - all are measured in word counts. They haunt me. Today I have knocked up 40,000 words of my PhD novel. I should be over the moon. That is a lot of words and they are words I am relatively happy with for a first draft. But all I keep thinking about is the next x-number of words that need to be written in order to finish it. I have a deadline. I need the first draft completed by the end of the summer and I probably have at least 20,000 words to go. Gulp! I can do it. After all I have a retreat to do it on. Stop panicking woman and just write. Don't think about word counts. Just write.....
It sounds so simple doesn't it, but everyone of my writer/academic friends knows it is anything but a simple thing to do. My advice therefore is don't think about it. Just keep writing...(I need to make sure I listen to myself for a change)


  1. Oh LOL! I relate so well to this - those days when the words won't flow, every 100 words or so, it's off to check the word count!