Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Monday 15 July 2013

A Final Comment on the Word Count

Poor old Chuck Wendig.

Virtually half of the blogs I’ve written in the past week seem to have involved him, one way or another. I do hope he doesn’t mind.

I’ve talked about word counts before. I’ve talked about their irrelevance. I’ve talked about how little they’re a measure of a writer. There are a number of reasons why I don’t trust word counts. they include, but are not defined by the following:

  1. A project isn’t finished until it’s finished, and no words up to the point at which a project is finished count for anything.
  2. A daily word count doesn’t take into account the days a writer spends researching, editing, rewriting, sitting on her hands or doing any number of key displacement activities, which may, believe it or not, be crucial to her process.
  3. Writing is not a competition.
  4. Rubbish words don’t count, so the fact that person A has put wxyz words down on paper today doesn’t make him a writer.
  5. Writing is tough enough without having the added pressure of reaching for some magic number. Writing is about WORDS goddamnit!

If you want more words on word counts and why I, personally, can get quite hot under the collar when I see people tweeting their word counts on a daily basis, right down to the decimal point, or updating their FaceBook status with them, or whatever, then you can read my thoughts in previous blogs here and here.

It’s worth checking out Anne Lyle’s comment on my blog “Words, Words, Words”... Sensible woman. You can also check out her books here and follow her on Twitter @AnneLyle

Out Now!
Last week Chuck Wendig, whose books you can find here, whose blog is over here, and who you can follow on Twitter @ChuckWendig, gave me the best justification for a word count that I have ever heard.

First let me tell you that I am always aware of how many words I have written in a day. There are a number of reasons for this. The first is that I’m a bit OCD. The second is that I work very fast and intensively on a project so word counts don’t really mean anything, but for different reasons from most people’s. The third is that I don’t know how to get rid of the little counter on the bottom left of my screen. The fourth is that most of my writing is to order, and, while I have an odd knack of writing to length without having to refer to that counter, it is useful to have it there, just so that I know I’m half way into a project, for example.

I also know my biggest word count of any writing day, and I know that not a word of it was changed in the edits. I know what it did to me, and I do not speak of it... Except I’ve broken that rule, now, too... I blame bloody Chuck Wendig... Thanks a lot, Chuck!

The best justification, and the only justification that I have ever heard that satisfies me for having any sort of word count, and, even then, I still rather despise those people who make a daily declaration of what is, at best, a dubious achievement... The best justification that I haver ever heard for having a word count is this,

You can edit a bad page, you can’t edit a blank one.
                                                                Chuck Wendig


  1. I need the discipline of my word count challenge every day. End of. Horses for courses!

  2. Drat you!

    I have spent the last 10 minutes trying to work out how I might pronounce "wxyz", whether it is more of a fantasy or sci-fi word, and plots that include wicksees words (is it a dialect? is there a society that has a list of words you can only use a certain number of times? &c.).

  3. In the interests of full disclosure I am going to say that, today, I wrote some words and I edited out some words, and, over all, I have ended with the same word count as I had when I began.

    This is a good thing, because the book has a finite word count, which I have, officially reached.


    1. Oscar Wilde once claimed to have spent the morning removing a comma and the afternoon putting it back.

      Admittedly he aspired to wit, so it might not be the best evidence for quality over quantity.

  4. I find that aiming low can improve results when it comes to word counts.