Saturday, February 25, 2023

Is Word Count the Best Way to Chart a Novel’s Progress?


Scott D. Parker

Words, pages, or scenes? What is the best way to measure progress when writing a novel?

When I wrote my first novel, I had zero idea about word count so I just stuck with scenes. They were as long as they needed to be.

After I met some fellow writers online, I learned that word count was also a method. In fact, it was often the preferred method publishers used to solicit stories and novels. So I switched and have been using word count as my standard ever since. I still let scenes do what they want.




Writing streaks are a great way to maintain momentum when you are on a project. I use them all the time as well. Since 2022 was a disastrous year of (non) writing for me, I resolved that I would start a brand-new project on New Year’s Day 2023 and keep going everyday until I completed the book.

I have written everyday this year. Yay! The book is coming along nicely, and its serving to remind me about the power and excitement of actually creating a story out of thin air.

During every writing session, I have managed to write 1,000 words or more. That’s kind of a doable benchmark I use that is a nice round number. It has enabled me to reach 64,000 words in the book as of yesterday, Day 55 of the year, so that’s really nice to see. Plus, it’s not as aggressive as the 1,667 words per day you need to write, a la NaNoWriMo, to get a 50,000-word book done in 30 days, but it is usually an achievable threshold, especially when I’m in that flow state.

But is it a good one?

There have been a few days this year when I’m writing a particular scene and I half wonder if I’m writing more words just to reach 1,000 words. I cannot consciously say yes, but the nagging splinter of that idea that I’m just padding the word count remains.

I guess that’s what editing is for.

What about you? How do you measure progress on a book?


Dana King said...

I set a goal for each day's work. In the draft and rirst rewrite, it's typically 1000 words. That has nothing to do with the story, but is only a number I use to keep me moving: I can write more than 1000, but not fewer. I let it be flabby, leaving in things I know will never make the cut, in only because I may be able to choose between tow or three ways to say the same thing, or some other flab that will serve as reminders to me for when I get down to honing the finished product.

The biggest thing I've learned over the years is that there is no "right" way. Do what gives you the results you're looking for and run with it.

Welcome back.

Dana King said...

I had a detailed comment written, but Blogger ate it and now it' supper time. Suffice to say that whatever you find achieves the desired result is the right way to do it, understanding you may find a "better" way later.

Welcome back.