Measuring Your Words: The Value of Word Counts

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WIP Word Count
Until recently, I never really considered the value of counting the total words I write each day.  As a writer, I tend to revise as I go.   Since my goal, even while drafting, has never been mainly to get new words on the page, I always suspected if I actually kept a running count I would come away feeling like I wasn’t making an real progress.  Of course, new words do get added, but plenty of other words get changed or moved around along the way.

Instead of counting words, I’ve always measured my writing progress in terms of completed chapters.   When my non-writing friends (the few who I’ve been brave enough to actually tell I’m writing a book) ask me how my writing is coming along saying,   ‘I’ve finished drafting chapter 12′ goes over much better than, ‘I wrote 1,200 words today.  Good ones, too!‘.  The latter typically results in blank stares or a friendly but abrupt observation about the weather.

Nevertheless, I recently started tracking my total word count and have even gone so far as to add a word count widget to my blog.  I’m still not sure how much it will help me in the long run, but here are some of the benefits I can already see for those who do it.

  • Estimating Your Completion Date:  If you set a goal for how long you want your book to be, and you’ve been tracking how may words you write per day, you’ll have a rough idea when you’re initial draft will actually be completed.
  • Setting Goals:  If you want to set a goal goal for when to have your draft completed, you can lay out your writing strategy in measurable chunks to reach your goal (or even to determine if your writing goal is too lofty for you.)
  • Providing Status Updates:  For established writers with a growing fan base, this can be a fun way of bringing eager readers into the process while keeping them updated on your latest project.
  • Staying Motivated:  Seeing the numbers increasing daily or weekly means your novel is growing.  ‘Nuff said.
  • Accountability:  Sometimes writers need the accountability a public display of writing progress offers.  This allows your writing friends to either offer their congrats or to bust your chops which ever the case may be.

If you’re interested in setting up your own and your progress bar and you’re using WordPress you can get the plugin I use at http://jasonpenney.net/wordpress-plugins/progpress/.  There are other options which work on all platforms such as http://www.writertopia.com/toolbox/meters.  These don’t require WordPress at all, just simple HTML which can be placed on any blog anywhere.

What about you?  Do you track word counts?  If you do, do you find them to be discouraging or do they actually help?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Duffy and the Devil (A Retelling in Verse)

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National Poetry MonthApril is National Poetry Month!  In honor of this I’ve recently completed a retelling of ‘Duffy and the Devil’ for children entirely in metered verse.  Oh, and I wrote it as a short play.  Why?  Well…why not?  Besides, this was a lot of fun to write! Just think of it as a script for a young reader’s theater performance with rhyming couplets. *crickets chirp* Anyway . . . moving on . . .

This “telling” is ~1,400 words (3 pages).  There are five characters, including the Narrator.  In case you’re wondering this mini-play actually has been performed.   By children.   Mine.   (Yes, I played the Narrator.)

Rather than allowing it to collect eDust on my laptop I’ve decided to try sending it out.  Another BIG step for me.  Still, I have no idea where to begin querying something like this.  (Suggestions are always welcome!)

While I ponder what to best do with it, I wanted to offer anyone interested a chance to read it first.  If you fall into that category, you can use the form below to request an email message with the password to the protected post.  Please feel free leave any feedback you may have in the comments section of either post.

To whet your poetic appetite, I’m posting the opening two stanzas here.  After requesting the password, you can read the rest of the story here.  I hope you enjoy it!

NARRATOR:

Squire Lovell lived alone, lone managed his estate,

without another soul about to toil or conversate.

He preferred things his own way, as you are soon to see,

yet wearied he of doing chores like cooking and laundry.

Deciding he the time was right to add an extra hand,

alone he rode one Autumn morn to seek in Burian

for one to come to spin and knit and mend his fraying garb,

when he did overhear a shout of angry disregard.

 

Thanks again for your interest!


EDITED TO ADD: Comments on this story are now closed. Thank you for your interest!

Ollie Has Left the Building

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Ollie Octopus

That’s right! I’ve completed the final revisions to my story, “OLLIE’S TREASURE”.  Ollie is now safely on his way to possible publication destinations unknown.  Okay, I know Ollie’s destination, but whether or not he will be welcomed with open print space when he arrives is another story.

Sending my first short story manuscript out into the world was a little scary.  It’s silly I know, but scary none the less.  Once I’d decided it was finished, I found I kept obsessing over my words each time I picked it up.  I’d change a verb here, and adverb there, or perhaps change the word order.  Nothing major.  But with each change I felt sure the story was better.  Each time I told myself “I am so glad I didn’t sent it out like it was yesterday“.  Then tomorrow would inevitably become today, and today would become inevitably yesterday.  I’d look at the story again.  I’d change something else.  Something small.  Or several somethings.  Then I tell myself “I’m so glad I didn’t sent this out like it was yesterday.”

This process went on for about ten days straight.  Really.  I finally realized the story wasn’t actually getting any better.  I knew I could look that story every day for a year and find some little change I could make.  But, if I did that the story would never see the world outside my house.

Ollie deserved better than that.

And so, Ollie is gone.  I kissed him goodbye today (yes, literally) and pushed him out of the nest.  I hope he will fly.  Not that I really think an octopus can fly.  Although that would really be something to see.  And for now, that’s all I can do – just wait and see.

Thanks to those who took the time to read and comment on this story.  

Ollie’s Treasure (A Story)

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Ollie Octopus

I wrote this very short story for one of my young children a little over a year ago and had completely forgotten about it. I came across it again recently and I’ve decided to clean it up a bit then submit it to a few children’s magazines to see if there’s any interest.

If you’d like to read the rest of the story just use the form below to receive the password. Any comments or suggestions you may have would be greatly appreciated. (Image via Corel.)

Ollie’s Treasure

 

One morning Ollie Octopus was out exploring the ocean with his best friend, Benjamin Barracuda, when they discovered an old shipwreck. The ship was lying on its side, anchored to the ocean floor by years of sand and mud built up around it. Clusters of hard barnacles clung to the hull, and strips of velvety seaweed waved from it like green ribbons.

Ollie stared, wide-eyed. “I’ve never seen a real shipwreck before.”

“It looks like an old pirate ship,” Benjamin said. “I bet there’s a treasure chest full of gold inside!”


EDITED TO ADD: Comments on this story are now closed. Thank you for your interest!

 

Why Writers Should Consider Dropbox

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DropboxIf you’re anything like me you’re constantly looking for little snatches of time to write whenever and wherever you can find them.  Since we can’t always be in our preferred writing space when time for writing presents itself, or even when inspiration strikes, we make due as we can.  During her Harry Potter days, J.K. Rowling even once resorted to writing on the back of an air sickness bag!

While there are any number of ways to take notes on the go, for me the challenge has always been in how to effectively bringing everything back together later.  Retyping handwritten notes can be time consuming, as can copying and pasting notes from one disconnected electronic location to another (email, text files, USB drive, etc.).  For the most part, anything that isn’t about just getting the words on the page can feel a lot like wasted time.  Time that would be better spent actually writing.

Enter . . . Dropbox!
Continue reading…

Password for My NPR Three-Minute Fiction Entry

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Since some people have asked, if you’d like to read my entry for this year’s NPR Three-Minute Fiction Contest leave a comment below or send me a message using the ‘Contact Me’ link at the top of the blog and I’ll email you the post password. The contest deadline is 11:59 p.m., EDT, on September 26th. I plan to submit my entry on Friday, September 24th.

Thanks for your interest!

My Favorite Blog Posts

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YA Highway Road Trip Wednesday This week’s YA Highway Road Trip Wednesday asks bloggers to share their favorite posts from their own blogs. For some this might be like trying to choose their favorite children. But not me. I’ve written some truly embarrassing blog posts and would be more than happy for BPS (Blogging Protective Services) to come and take them away. Nevertheless, I have written a few I don’t mind having my name attached to. So here are a few of my favorites. I hope you enjoy them too.

Most Popular:

Most Commented:

Most FUN!:

Most Thoughtful:

YA Specific:

Road Trip Wednesdays:

Poetic (aka actual poems):

And of course since this is for YA Highway I have to mention my very own YA Highway post from back in the wee early days of the “Highway” when the uber-thoughtful Kirsten Hubbard invited me to share a guest post because I’d played so nicely with the other bloggers. 🙂

Invite your characters over for dinner

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place-setting Most writers’ initial forays into fleshing out characters in their shiny new WIPs involve pages,  sometimes entire chapters, of disposable drafting.  While it’s true some of these words might find their way in as backstory (provided it’s handled appropriately) this early writing is mostly a tool for the writer in getting to know his or her characters.  Here’s a writing exercise which might be helpful with early character development and even make your initial WIP drafting more efficient.

Invite your characters over for dinner.

Out here in the real world a simple and fun way get to know someone better is to share a meal with them.  So why not do the same with your new characters?  While you’re at it why not invite all the characters from your current WIP over at the same time?  Instead of just dinner, hold a banquet!

Once you’ve made the decision to play host and the imaginary invitations have been sent out, the real work of character observation begins.

Here is a list of some things you’ll want to pay attention to as your fictional evening unfolds: Continue reading…