When Word Count Is Secondary

April 15, 2013

During the NaNoWriMo months of April, July and November this year I’ll get a lot of emails, Skype messages, and blog posts from novice NaNo-ing writers I follow, saying,

“Today’s word count is…!!”

Some of them are starting at zero. Some are rebelling and adding on to earlier works in progress.  Everyone has a goal. Some magic number they’re aiming for.

Size is secondaryOne wrote to me of their WIP from last year, “Turning this into a novella means adding at least 15,000 more words to it.”

And I asked, “Don’t you mean, turning this into a novella means rounding out the Female MC’s overall arc and her main problem/desire?”

Because even during NaNo months, word count, if you’re not a genuine beginner, is secondary to a solidly realized storyline.

Try asking yourself, instead, if turning it into a novella would mean “Finding a more potent problem for the characters that would take me an additional 60 manuscript pages to tell.”

Short stories are about choice – one of them– made in an instant that the reader can see. Yes, they are also about five to twenty-something pages long, SF ones being sometimes longer.

Novellas can be like a short story or like a novel. And also it can be 50K worth of words, or thereabouts.

Novels are about change– change that takes a while to happen– as readers get to watch that change occur.  And novels can be slim, or fat; as you decide to write them.

Neither is truly about a word count.

Put that single thought away and you may release yourself into a stronger world of storytelling.

So, which would you prefer, giving us a longer choice, shown in your NaNo’s novella’s 50K length? Or giving us a shorter change, shown in that same space of words?

If this isn’t your first NaNo event, if you’re on your 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 12th go-round, you can move beyond chasing a word count.

Are you merely working on a daily word count goal, or are you chasing more realistic characterization, stronger dialogues, or fuller arcs for even the secondary characters?

Like these posts? Want to work on your WIP 1-on-1 with someone who can help make it shine? Contact me for coaching, and content editing.

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One Response to “When Word Count Is Secondary”

  1. Karlie Says:

    Okay. I admit it. Last November was my first time, and I obsessed over word count. Hopefully next time I can concentrate on the story, instead. Thank you for another great post!

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