Thursday, November 12, 2015

NaNoWriMo: Why word counts count

Happy November, everyone! For many people November equals NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month. It's a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. I want to take this opportunity to go through NaNo with you, and to look at the writing process in great detail.

This week, I want to discuss word counts.

To start off, we need to look at the breakdown of word counts. As a general rule, they go as follows:

Short Stories: 20,000 words or less
Novellas: 20,000-40,000 words
Novels: 50,000 words or more.

NaNo sets the goal at 50,000 words, which is a good goal. At 50,000, you should have a very well rounded story, and good foundation for the novel itself.

50,000 is a lot of words! Yes it is. Any writer will tell you that there are times when 50,000 feels more like 5,000,000,000. It's not always easy, but word counts are important to keep in mind.


First and foremost, if you're seeking publication, publishers watch word counts carefully. If the word count is low, they see an emaciated story that will need lots of editing to beef it up. That's time and money that they're not willing to spend. On the flip side of that, if the word count is too high, the piece is too long and no one will read it. So you need to watch your count if you want to get published.

What if you're not seeking publication? What's the point of watching your word count?

Well, those of us who are die-hard grammar policemen/-women will tell you that you need to follow the rules. 

For those of you who are rebellious and don't like rules, look at a word count as a challenge. It's a goal to meet. It's a good frame to help you beef up and trim off sections of your story. It will show you what sections of your novel require more attention and editing. 

I personally find word counts to be a great guide in my story writing.

A good word count is not necessarily indicative of good quality, per se. However, a good word count is indicative of the fact that the writer has been paying attention. If they're paying attention, chances are they're paying attention to the quality and the quantity.

So yes, word counts count.

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