On Writing

Do words count? And if they do, should I be counting them?

6 Comments 01 March 2011

Over the years I have become obsessed with what I have termed my ‘writing statistics.’ I religiously record the amount of words I write and the number of pages that these words equate to.

When I see the figures in front of me, sometimes I celebrate, or at least I do when I manage to beat my monthly target! Yet inevitably, sometimes I fail to reach that golden target number and the sulking begins.

Take a look at my writing stats from the last 18 months. They present equally horrifying and delightful news:

I’m not really sure what happened last January (when I managed to lose 61 precious words?!) but interestingly, when I compare January 2010 to the same period in previous years, I can see a definite pattern emerging.

Unfortunately – as the table undoubtedly demonstrates, my writing productivity seems to plummet around October. It doesn’t really pick up again until after January, after which my output tends to increase, peaking in the summer. I’m not really sure what this means but I’m happy to partly blame the cold months as I find it difficult to write once the clocks go back and the early nights set in. In fact I find it nearly impossible.

My creativity goes into hibernation along with the rest of my body.

Couple this with aiming to meet my monthly target of 5000 words – which might not sound like much, but to form it into a state where I would be happy for my publisher to read it (which is damn well as perfect as I can get it!) is no mean feat.

So, what’s your experience with the old word count?

Do the stats count? Or should I just worry about making sure the words I already have meet the standards of my publisher’s beady eye?

This post was selected for the March 4th 2011 edition of Just Write, hosted by Incurable Disease of Writing and The Mad Editor’s Round-Up #28, hosted by Diary of a Mad Editor, Lovely Words Vol.31, hosted by Writing as a Sacred Art, the March 21st 2011 edition of Writing Tips Blog Carnival, hosted by Inspired to Write, Mystery & Crime Fiction Blog Carnival – April 2011, hosted by Mysteries and My Musings and Carnival of Storytelling – June 9, 2011, hosted by Be the Story.

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6 Comments so far

  1. Ros says:

    That’s interesting, because it suggests your output is related to how much vitamin D you’re getting. Of course there could be a lot of other things at work, like the distractions of Christmas, the flu and cold season, and so on. But at least this suggests something you could try out to see if you can improve the situation.

    Personally I try to write towards a daily target rather than monthly, and I tend to think of editing wordcounts as different from original writing, which always takes a bit longer. The stats do count, but only because it’s something to measure your productivity against when you can’t get much else in the way of feedback.
    Ros recently posted..Angelfire

  2. O.C. Heaton says:

    Hi Ros – you could be right about the Vitamin D. Better pack up on the fatty fish and meat for next November hey or even a SAD lamp! I was actually thinking of rolling with my ‘clock’. Once I finish the sequel to The Human Race in May I am going to writethe final instalment around it. So plan the storyline and consuct reasearch Sep to Feb and write like fury till Nov 2012.

    How do you manage the day target. Not sure I could cope with that.

  3. Ros says:

    I tend to think of writing as a lot like working out. Your mind can get flabby if you don’t use it often enough. So it’s better to write a little every day and build it up, rather than trying to cram it all into a weekend, say. It’s just a matter of getting a rhythm going. That said, I’m not exactly a paragon of productivity myself.
    Ros recently posted..Angelfire

  4. I think I would find a word count counter productive. For me, flow happens or it doesn’t. Usually making it happen depends on isolating myself from this world effectively enough to become immersed in the one I write about. I confess it sounds a lot like meditation or something. Nonetheless, I do write about 2000 words a week because I have an opportunity to share them with beta-testers on the weekend. So I guess I do weigh my words and write to quota.

    • O.C. Heaton says:

      Hi Lynda – I think you’re right. When i am in full flow and the story is telling itself the word count is meaningless and rarely looked at. However when the demon block strikes I become obsessed! We’re doomed!!


  1. Carnival of Storytelling – June 9, 2011 | Be the Story - June 9, 2011

    […] Heaton presents Do words count? And if they do, should I be counting them? posted at A Rush of Green, saying, “Over the years I have become obsessed with what I have […]

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Unputdownable. Yes, I know it's not a word, but it definitely applies here, anyway. That's the word I'm going with, to describe The Human Race by O.C. Heaton. - Hira N. Hasnain

An outstanding first novel from O.C. Heaton that catapults him into the Best Seller league… - Justine Bond

"This is an exciting, fast-paced read. The Human Race is a book that is very easy to forget to put down. Bring on part two!" - L. H. Bowers

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Charles Heaton British thriller writer O.C. Heaton, author of The Human Race, is fascinated by the past, present and future of human evolution. (Image credit: Ross Parry Agency) Read More>>

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