Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake
jaylake

[process] On Word Count

I made the following remark on Twitter and Facebook yesterday about word count:
"Wondering how much writers are intimidated by wordcount... novels used to seem impossibly long to me."

The responses, especially on Facebook, were interesting and varied. Click through that link and go read. I'll still be here when you get back, I promise.

One thing that I found fascinating was how few people seemed to share my orginal assumption. Specifically, when I first started writing, the idea of completing a novel-length manuscript seemed horrendously intimidating to me. This is related to, but not bound up in, my concept of "span of control". High word count seemed unattainable. That is to say, I shied away from big, complex stories.

Another interesting bit is how many people seem to be indifferent to word count, at least in my comment thread. While I no longer am spooked by it (Sunspin will be 600,000-750,000 of first draft, I believe), I also don't obsess about it. But word count is a useful tool for measuring daily productivity and assessing the progress of a project. And in Microsoft Word, at least, the word count is in the window footer, until you hit the bug at 100,000 words. (That application was clearly not designed by anyone who wrote at length.)

Like I said, to me word count is just a tool. An interesting one, with applications ranging from idea sizing to market targeting to contractual factors to productivity measurement and progress assessment. My emotional relationship with word count has improved immeasurably as my career progresses.

What does it mean to you? How closely do you pay attention to word count? Why?

Tags: books, process, sunspin, writing
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