Monday, July 13, 2009

Word Count

I live and die by the word count tool on MS Word.*

I admit it: I have an addiction.  Every day, I measure success by what number comes up when I click the tool.  My daily quota is 1,000 words.  Not "almost 1,000 words."  If I don't hit four digits, we have a problem.  Sometimes I go over.  More often than not, I am under.  

My chapters are all give or take 2,000 words.  Mainly, because I have an epicly short attention span and the first draft had chapters of 3,000 words that I was killing myself to get to.  I somehow feel cheered when I finish a chapter.  So I have more moments of cheered-ness when I have shorter chapters.

I used to check the word count every few paragraphs.  I limit myself to checking once I complete a page (single-spaced; yes, I write single-spaced because it feels less like a final paper for college). It's not like it matters, really, because I have become so psychotically good at predicting how many words are on a page that I am virtually a human word count tool.

In the beginning (first draft), I was afraid I would not hit my ideal figure of 70,000 words.  So I made the mistake that many people make, which is to write with an eye for the word count.  You know what this results in?  A lot of foam.  By foam, I mean useless junk does not carry the plot forward or give any emotional development to the characters.  So I don't do that anymore.  But for the second draft, I condensed large foamy parts of first draft.  What I accomplished in ten chapters in the first draft, I accomplished in four in the second.  Then, I was afraid I would not be able to reach the ideal word count.  Now, I am at 40,000 words, and I don't think I have the slightest problem getting to 70,000.  I'm a little worried I might go over 80,000.  Because I am addicted to word count, I try once every few days to calculate how many words the remaining part of the book will be (this never works, don't even try it).

I have to remind myself not to be too preoccupied with the final word count, because if I'm afraid the book will be too long, I'll start rushing the climax and denouement (I do this sometimes, and it's awfully anti-climactic).

Does anyone else have problems with word count?  

*I would like to add that I use MS Word 2000 or 2003.  None of this new stuff that is now installed at every public school and facility everywhere.  Here is my question to you, Microsoft: why must you fix something that is clearly not broken?  I don't like all the colorful tabs that rearrange everything.  I especially don't like how the default setting for font is Calibri, size 11.  I MEAN, WTF?  Nobody in the world has industry standards of Calibri, size 11!  WTF is Calibri anyway?  Answer: the ugliest font known to man.  And it's in size 11 because it's a speshul snowflake.  

I know I sound like a crotchety 80-year-old bemoaning the advent of personal computers, but I care not.  MS Word 2007: DO NOT WANT.


  1. I think I would have the same problem (as well as editing too much as I draft) if I wrote on the computer.

    That's why I write my first draft of novels in longhand. I keep an estimate of my word count by page average, and have a rough word count goal, though I mark my progress by scenes as much as words. I am not that concerned, because I can always add more stories if I fall short of the mark and condense the writing if the word count gets too high.

    I use microsoft 2000 simply because I see no point in upgrading. I use it for typing and uses simple fonts...

  2. Ha! I love the new default font setting for the new Word. It takes some getting used to and it's a pain in a half to switch settings when I'm writing stuff for school, but I love the Calibri font. The only thing I don't love is the way it sets 10 points between paragraphs; I find myself making that extra space between the paragraphs even on older MS Word because I'm so used to seeing it like that on my laptop.

    Anyway, the only time I really pay serious attention to my word count is when I'm writing a newspaper article or something for school. Or when I'm doing NaNoWriMo. I only get obsessive when I want to see how much progressive I've made over the day, but I tried doing it while I was working on some original fic last summer, and I found it hindered the chapter writing process when each chapter HAD to be a certain length. I just write until I feel like the story for that chapter finished, never mind the word count.

  3. This is why I love Scrivener. I can have a little box up that shows me my word count targets (for both the day and the manuscript) and see my progress in both numbers and the little bar that gets larger as I write. It helps when the words aren't flowing.

  4. I write in longhand, revise in longhand, and make copious notes in longhand. I only find out about my word count when I type in all of my changes. Word count never seems to be a distraction while I'm actually writing.

    Microsoft is the devil. I have the latest version of Word on my new laptop, because it came preinstalled and I can't find my old Office 2000 disks. I hate the new Word. I really, really hate it.

  5. Wait... the default setting for Word 2007 is... Calibri, size 11? What? O.O Well, then it's a good thing my computer came with Office 2003.

    Oh, and I also have somewhat of an addiction to the word count tool. It's probably a side effect of NaNoWriMo. I'd do all my writing in notepad, except it doesn't have italics. :(

  6. Link-hopped my way over here from Danyelle's blog, but I randomly had to pop up and say I LOVE Calibri and since I'm just slightly over-fond of fonts, I couldn't hold back the need to declare this. It basically fixes everything I hate about Arial, which frankly, I never like unless it's 10pt and then I feel like it's just slightly too small.

    I admit, I was like you - very wtf about Calibri being the default and at 11pt, but it grew on me. I do agree that 11pt as a default is weird, and it is rather annoying that Calibri is too new for most other programs and things. The font itself though makes me happy. It's not as formal as Times and not as 'bleh' as Arial; it's a happy, clean between. And it looks nice at any size.

    I also agree Word 2007 set-up is hard and confusing to get used to. It still drives me up the wall, and I've had it for like 2 years. -__- That's my 2 cents. Please excuse my random outburst. :P

    As for wordcount so this isn't totally off topic, I'm only obsessed with it when there's a deadline or prereq for it (i.e. Nanowrimo, papers, articles).

  7. There are people who love Calibri? My worldview has been altered.

    And also, writing by hand is way more than I could ever subject myself to. I wrote by hand until junior high, when I discovered the wonderment of computers and typing. I just don't have a long enough attention span to laboriously scrawl out words. Plus, thoughts come faster than I can hand-write.

    Thank you for dropping by scott g. f. bailey and Krispy! I love new people!

  8. I was just thinking today about how much common sense it would have required to say make the default font in Times New Roman maybe? And how about say... font size 12? The funny thing is, I've actually gotten used to their crazy tabs system, so that when I switch back to an older version of Word, I have no idea where anything is anymore.