Tuesday, September 21, 2010

No Longer Counting Words

Word counts. Admit it, we all love to see those numbers climb. They are, after all, a tangible representation of progress. The higher the number, the closer we are to The End.

For too many years now, I've been a slave to those figures. Each day I've judged myself solely on how much or little I've added to the total word count, berating myself when I didn't meet that number goal, groaning because I'd have to do it all over again if I met or exceeded my magic number.

End result: I began to enjoy the have-written rather than the act of writing itself.

And you know what? That's just not working for me anymore. I want to luxuriate in the prose, write it the way I want my words to be read. I want to savor rather than slop words onto the page with the intention of fixing them in the next draft.

Yes, there are people for whom this works beautifully, who write fantastic first drafts at blazing speeds, and for a time I, too, could lay down at least functional prose in mass quantities. But writers grow and change. Goals evolve. And sometimes we must revolutionize the way we work if we're to move forward.

So I've stopped counting words.

That's not to say I'm ignoring word counts entirely. There must be forward momentum--always. But now I'm measuring my progress in other ways: a scene conquered, a plot epiphany (and really, aren't stories a series of epiphanies?), prose that pulls double duty (at least). Things other than accumulating numbers. And at the end of the day I'm a happier writer; more productive, too.

Not to say my way is right. But it's right for me. For now at least. I'm always open to evolution, and always looking for a way to climb outside the box.

So if watching the numbers is stressing you out, don't be afraid to try something else--even if it's just temporary. This isn't a one-size-fits-all gig.

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