Revising Leah

October 2, 2008

Leah’s “Word Count”

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 4:26 pm
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Just a quick update to my Progress Report post from this morning: during this fifth cycle, I’ve been counting how many words my main character speaks during the course of the novel. By my count, the total is 466 words — 466 words that are enclosed in quotation marks. However, 357 of those words were spoken during Leah’s Egypt report. If you don’t count those words, then she only speaks 109 words.

109 (or 466) out of 83,000 words.

Of course, I do hint at other things she says that I don’t record in quotation marks, but there’s no question that Leah speaks the least of all of the major characters.

September 15, 2008

What Is Your Word Count?

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 4:05 pm
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Lately, I’ve made a point to visit some of the other WordPress blogs about writing, especially those blogs which, like mine, are chronicling writers’ work as they create their own novels. They’re interesting to read; I like writing about my own writing process, and I find I like reading about others’ writing processes too.

One thing that I’ve noticed in most people’s blogs is that they make a big deal about their word count, and some folks even have word count goals for their projects — not only an overall goal but also daily writing goals.

When I started writing during my teenage years, I didn’t use a word processor. I wrote everything out by hand, and when you write that way, counting words just isn’t an option unless you have a whole lot of time to kill. So I counted pages, and, in my mind, 200 pages was the minimum page requirement for a novel. That continues to be my mindset today; I think more in terms of pages than words. Frequent visitors to this blog will find that I refer to my page count more often than my word count.

Right now, for the record, Leah is 231 pages long (or about 83,500 words). Claiming that the text is “X” number of pages, I guess, doesn’t really mean much to readers of this blog. The question becomes, “What constitutes a ‘page’?” For example, altering the font size, the font style, the page margins, or the line spacing can all affect the page count, so what does it mean when I say “231 pages”? The answer is that I have formatted the document file in exactly the same way that I formatted The Spring when I published it — the same font style, same page size, everything. Again, for the record, here are my specs:

  • Garamond font, size 12
  • 34 lines of text on each page
  • Fixed line spacing set at .22″ between lines
  • Approximately 370 words per page
  • Pages set at 9″ tall X 6″ wide
  • Half-inch margins for the top, bottom and outer margins. Three-quarter inch margins for the inner margin.

So Leah’s 231 page count is perfectly comparable to The Spring’s 263 pages, and 231 pages is how long the book would be if I published it today.

But whether I’m going by pages or total words, I believe that an obsession with one’s word or page count can have a detrimental effect on one’s writing. I try not to worry about how physically long my story is. I believe that what’s most important is that the story is as long as it needs to be. A novel that is 1000 pages long is not necessarily a better novel than one that is 150 pages long. Since I began this revising project 5 months ago, I’ve cut at least 30 pages of material from my novel, not because I’m trying to meet a specific page goal, but because I didn’t need those 30 pages. The material that I cut was superfluous, repetitive, or it contradicted other elements in the story. When I’m finished, the story will be however long it needs to be, not a word more or a word less.

I’m sure not everyone shares my point of view. If you are writing a novel and counting your words as you go, does it really help you to know how long your story is, or do you think it puts undo pressure on you as a writer to reach a certain overall word count?

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