What's Your Word Count?

by | November 24, 2015 | General | 4 comments

by Kathleen Bradean

Since it’s November, the month of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), I thought I’d check in to see how everyone is doing. Oh sure, you might not be an official NaNoer, but you might be working on  something anyway. Or you might not. Maybe words just aren’t flowing for you right now. They sure as heck aren’t for me. But I’m still cheerful and optimistic.

I know what you’re thinking. “How can this be?”

Here’s the thing. I don’t think it’s possible to fail at NaNoWriMo. (Or whatever your current WIP schedule is). Sure, you can miss the word count goal by a wide margin. You can get so far behind that you feel hopeless and quit. You can even finish writing 50,000 words two days before the end of the month but realize you just wrote a steaming pile of gobshit. (That last one would be my NaNoWriMo experience several years ago.)  But WHY are you feeling bad about that? You didn’t really fail. The only scenario listed above that’s actual failure is quitting and giving up forever, but you’re not going to do that. And you know why? Because you’re a writer and you can’t help yourself. You know you’re going to write again eventually. 

So what did you accomplish even if you’re on hiatus? Well, you learned that writing a novel is hard. That’s actually a good lesson. So many people talk about writing a novel but never write the first word. If you wrote something, anything, you’re ahead of many.

You learned that the story that you tell yourself in your head is like a dream – it seems to make sense but there’s a lot of fuzzy logic in there that doesn’t work in the harsh light of day. This is a good thing. So now you know you need to take some time away from tappa-tappa-tappa typing to think about the parts of your story that aren’t working. Firm them up a bit. Flesh them out.

Maybe you learned that you need to outline. Or you learned that writing an outline sucks all the fun out for you. Whichever one of those lessons you took away from the experience, both made you realize that every writer finds a method that works for them and whatever works is the “right way.”

Do you rewrite as you go? That’s the right way.

Do you leave the rewrite until after you’ve finished the first draft? That’s the right way too.

Did you have to step away? Damn right you’re going to take some time to let that story ripen before you hit the keyboard again. You’re going to think long and hard about what your characters would do next if they were real people in this situation. You’re going to make sure you understand them before you plunge ahead. Then when you go back to writing, you’re going to have them do that. Or you’re going to decide that plot is king and you’re going to force those stupid characters to do what the plot demands even if it’s like Cinderella’s step-sisters trying to cram their feet into that glass slipper.  

All of which is simply a way of saying that writing isn’t always adding to word count. If you’re thinking about your story, you’re writing. Maybe that doesn’t get you a little word count badge on November 30th, but it’s going to enrich those words when you finally do get them on the page. So be of good cheer, my dear lagging NaNoers. You can do this, in your own sweet time.

Kathleen Bradean

Kathleen Bradean’s stories can be found in The Best Women’s Erotica 2007, Haunted Hearths, Garden of the Perverse, The Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica 6, and She’s On Top in print. Clean Sheets and The Erotica Readers and Writer’s Association websites have also featured her stories. Writing as Jay Lygon, her stories can be found in Inside Him, Blue Collar Taste Tests, Toy Box: Floggers, and the novels Chaos Magic, Love Runes, and Personal Demons. Read more about Kathleen Bradean at: KathleenBradean.Blogspot.com www.JayLygonWrites.com


  1. Lisabet Sarai

    Thanks for this post, Kathleen. I think this is something many writers need to hear. Writing isn't only about getting the words into the Word file. It includes all sorts of activities that happen away from the keyboard. As I pointed out a couple of months ago, there's no one right way to write a novel.

    And I love this:

    "You learned that the story that you tell yourself in your head is like a dream – it seems to make sense but there's a lot of fuzzy logic in there that doesn't work in the harsh light of day." How true!

  2. JJ Godman

    Thank you for writing this post – as a first-time NaNo-er, with a word count of 'more-than-I-expected-but-less-than-I-wanted – it was just what I needed to hear!
    This last year (since I committed to actually finishing/publishing something), I have been trying to 'learn the rules'. Thankfully, I have now realised there are none; except the obvious that you have to actually put pen to paper or finger to keyboard. Apart from that, I can do it my own (crazy, disorganized, start-at-the-end-and-work-back-if-I-want-to) way. I kinda lost sight of 'why' for a while in all the 'how' so writing is a lot more fun now.
    Now back to NaNo for the last push …. only 44,281 words to go …

    • Kathleen Bradean

      JJ – I'm glad this helped. I've often repeated this quote but since you may be new around here I'll post it again. Poppy Z Brite once said "You don't learn how to write A novel. You learn how to write THIS novel." [and you learn as you're doing it.] You'll figure it out.

  3. Jean Roberta

    These are encouraging words, Kathleen.

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