A Novel Approach, pt. 9, (Stop Counting Words)

(Continued from yesterday.)

One more piece of advice I have is to stop counting words. We live in a world where everything has to be quantified all the time, and it doesn’t help that most if not all word processing programs offer word counts at the bottom of the page—yet another reason, I suppose, it might be good to write in a notebook.

My main concern with counting words is that it encourages us to think about writing in terms of speed—how many words we write per hour, per day, per month. The thing about writing, and especially about writing a novel, is that it takes time. And if you want to do it well, chances are good that it’s going to take a lot of time.

When you start counting words, you start getting down on yourself—especially if, like me, you compare your word counts to your friends’ word counts.

The other guy’s is always so much bigger than mine.

So I start to feel bad because I’m not generating however many thousands of words per day my writer friends say they’re generating. As a result, I forget all about why I’m writing in the first place—that I enjoy the process. What’s more, hanging a number on my writing obscures everything else. I stop thinking about how satisfied I am with the work I’ve done or how meaningful the subject matter is to me, and I dwell entirely on that terrible little number.

(Concluded tomorrow.)

5 thoughts on “A Novel Approach, pt. 9, (Stop Counting Words)

  1. I completely agree. To me, what’s more important than quantity is depth. I’d trade three pages of schlock for just one perfect paragraph any day. Also, if I can manage to sit there for three hours engaged in the writing, I feel very virtuous and proud, much better than if I only manage to snack or scan or purge for a moment or two. The image of a writer pounding away at a typewriter as if she were playing Beethoven is just silly.

  2. I like to set a daily writing goal for myself (1,000 words or 3 hours of writing) to keep myself on track. I completely agree with the annoying keeping up with the joneses competition sucking the joy out of writing. Writing is like religion, we all have a similar goal of enlightenment/nice afterlife, but there are a 25,657 ways to get there.

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