How not to write a novel – Part 6. The fallacy of word count

31, August,2007

One of the common questions asked by new authors is how long should my novel be.  The common number seems to be around 100,000, but not for any defined literary purpose – the reason – it’s not too thick for the printers and but still thick enough to meet the publisher’s market research requirements. 

100,000 words!  Try and find any other time in your life when producing 100,000 words was a reasonable expectation.  You could do a 3 year degree and an Masters and still get change from 100,000.

What if you have written the world’s greatest story in 40,00 words – well the advice is to add some new characters and put in some more conflict – put in more words.

What about other advice for new writers?
Set yourself targets, write 1,000 words a day, keep writing until you finish – produce words.

How I loved seeing my word count creep up.  I stuck Post It notes to my monitor tracking my monthly progress.  Then I cracked the 100k. Yippee!  I’ve done it!
  Bow down to me, the great and witty author.  Harken to me for I have written a book.
Then I looked at what I’d produced. 

My word count has been around the 100K mark for almost 2 years and I’m still not finished.

As a new writer the risk is, that instead of a story, you end up producing a 100,000 word example of bloody minded persistence.

I think, if you’re being honest, what writing your first book teaches you is you don’t yet have the skills to write a book.


2 Responses to “How not to write a novel – Part 6. The fallacy of word count”

  1. Mark Papale Says:

    Hi – I am currently completing version one, draft one, of a novel which will most likely take me another two years to complete. Your article is spot on and well to the point.


  2. Cameron Says:

    It’s a hard learned lesson, and I think it’s one we wannabes need to acknowledge if we’re going to progress.

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