There is an adage about writing a story until it’s finished and not worrying about how long or short it is-it’s exactly the length it wants to be. Well, bullshit. If that were the case there would be no use for editors. I am very vigilant about word count. I take my parameters seriously. I want my novel’s over 50K and my novellas 30K-but that’s just me and that’s just writing, because unless you’ve written a 120K YA novel, I’m never going to notice what your word count is.
My word count anxiety stems from my first experience submitting work. I wanted to enter a YA writing contest and the word count for the piece was 35-40K. The contest was for a novel length work, so I assumed that’s how long a novel length work was. Jump to me sending Glimpse out to agents at 37K and getting schooled. “A novel isn’t a novel if it’s under 50K,” is what they all said. I could practically hear them calling me a dumbass. So now when I’m writing, I track it. I have a piece of paper for each of the things I’m working on and I write down my word count every time I’ve written something, with a goal number at the end.
Here’s my current problem: I’m discovering that I’m pretty tapped out by 35K. When I’ve written a story out to its end, for me, that’s apparently how long it wants to be. This is where I’m at with Glimmer and it’s meant to be a novel, so while I can see where I could add another 8K or so to it, I don’t know where the other 7K is going to come from. That’s why I decided to write on this other project for a while, because it is supposed to be a novella, so I’m not as afraid of not making it the correct number of words.
I don’t know if I’m always going to have this problem. I wish I could be easier on myself in this respect, because I know I would most likely relax and get myself together and bang out 15K in a week. Am I the only writer with this irrational word count fear? I’d love to have a few comrades in Crazytown to commiserate with. 🙂