Posts Tagged ‘steps of the writing process’

To Word Count or Not to Word Count

So, after last Thursday’s post I got to thinking. And I realized that word count is a major indicator of progress to me.

And I also realized that this is probably because I didn’t start finishing novel drafts until I started Nanowrimo, and, of course, Nanowrimo is all about quantity over quality, not spending too much time thinking, just doing.

And it made me a little uncomfortable, honestly. I got to wondering whether “real” authors keep track of their progress in word counts. Like, say, does John Scalzi sit down when he starts a draft and calculate how many words he thinks it’ll be? Does he keep track of how many words he’s written in a day, and how many days he will need to write to get to that proscribed number? Does Brandon Sanderson? Did Anne McCaffrey? Isaac Asimov?

Part of me wonders if my writing process has been infected with this concentration on word count, and whether I am a lesser writer because of it.

Of course, most of me realizes it doesn’t really matter, and if keeping track by word count works for me, what do I care what other people do?

But there’s a little bit that whispers, “Maybe you’re so focused on your word count that you don’t let the story flow naturally. Maybe you add too much in, or leave too much out. Maybe your stories would be better if you focused on the progression whether than what your word count is versus where you think it should be.”

And the rest of me worries that that little bit is right.

And if it is? I don’t know how to judge progress without word count. Do I outline the whole thing, and then just judge progress against that?

I feel all befuddled. I mean, I’ve never forced a story to a word count if it wasn’t going to go, but I can’t help but feel like I’ve lost something of the craft in the way I work.

Do you also write, Squiders? How do you judge your progress in a draft? If you don’t use word count, what do you do? How does it work for you?

Submission is Scary, but Everything Will Be Okay

Going along with writing fears and insecurity, we have submission. Oh, submission. Perhaps the scariest and most disheartening of all steps of the writing process. You’ve written a story, you’ve edited and polished, and finally you’re ready to let it loose into the world to find its way.

Well. Some of us never get there.

You see, submission is scary because of two reasons. 1) You may get rejected. 2) You may get accepted.

Writing has a strange dichotomy to it. On one hand, we tend to be highly critical of our own works, but on some level we also feel like we’re brilliant. So rejection hurts the latter – sometimes, especially if you have something you’re sending out and sending out and not getting any bites on, you begin to wonder if you’re not so brilliant as you thought, and oh, maybe you suck and everyone’s just been too nice to tell you all these years.

And it does hurt, to send out something you’ve spent a good amount of blood, sweat, and tears on just to get a collection of form rejections.

But I’ve found writers fear success almost as much. When we’re not secretly thinking we’re brilliant, we tend to think that we’re hacks and any and all successes up to this point have been some sort of fluke. And we tend to worry that someday someone is going to figure out that we’re hacks and call us out on it. And every time something is published, it just affords more people to see it and possibly be that one person who realizes that we’re a giant fraud.

So writers sit on stories, revising and revising way past having good reason to revise, or even just stuffing stories in drawers to rot, because they’re afraid to send them out.

Friends. I know it’s stressful. But I’m here to tell you to let them go. Send them out. As long as you’ve edited and done your research so you’re sending things to appropriate markets, no one’s going to laugh at you. Send them out. Everything will be okay. If nothing else, it’s good practice. It will teach you things about your writing. It will teach you things about yourself.

And if this is a career you want – it’s something you’re going to have to do.