Monday, 29 August 2016

Tip for Writers: Tackling Word Count

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog post detailing the tricks and tips I’ve picked up during my writing journey, and I’ve been meaning to write one on word count for a while now. Finally, I’ve got around to doing just that.

When it comes to the length of the novel you’re writing, my advice is: don’t worry about word count, how long your manuscript is becoming. Just get everything on the page. You’re going to clean it up when you’re editing it.

Then, when you’re doing the re-writing, my advice is: don’t worry about word count. On a book-level. Meaning: let the novel be as long as it needs to be to tell your story.

I know there are guideline figures floating around about how many words should be in a romance novel, in a YA fantasy, and so on, but I wouldn’t take these too seriously. Keep them in mind – after all, knowledge is power – but don’t think that you have to adhere to those rules. If your story is a good one and you write it well, readers will enjoy it and won’t care how long it is. Unless it’s too short. You don’t want to rush a good thing. It shouldn’t feel like you didn’t spend enough time on your creation.

In saying that, I don’t mean that you shouldn’t worry about word count on a chapter-by-chapter level. My personal opinion is – and I’ve seen this in more and more recent bestsellers – every chapter in your novel doesn’t have to be of the same length. If they’re roughly similar in length and each chapter does what it’s supposed to, great. Otherwise, tackle word count on a chapter-level.

The length of each chapter in your book should, more or less, correlate with the events depicted. It might seem obvious, but when you’re writing some of your favourite scenes, you don’t want to finish them. You want to add more description, explain more of the emotions your characters are feeling. You’ll enjoy it, but your readers might think you overdid it.

For example, say you’re writing a romance novel and one of your chapters sees your female lead waiting for the new guy she’s met to call her, but he doesn’t. The whole weekend goes by, but still no phone-call or text. This is a chapter where nothing, literally, happens. So the chapter should be quite a short one. If it’s pushing towards the 2,000-words mark, you need to cut that chapter down, quite considerably.

When I was writing Someone Like You (The Soulmates Saga, Book 3), I started keeping a log of word count per chapter in a spreadsheet, next to a column with the events that take place in the chapter. Whether you’re in the process of writing your novel, or editing a finished manuscript, I would strongly recommend you do this.

In a spreadsheet, you need one column with the chapter number, the column next to it can be titled ‘Summary’ and the third and final column will record the number of words in the chapter. The ‘Summary’ column should be a very concise account of what happens in the chapter. You don’t need to go into details, include any quotes, just the basic events that occur. Very quickly, you’ll be able to see, from the size of each cell in the ‘Summary’ column which chapters have very little action and which have a lot happening.

You might consider splitting some of the action-packed chapters into two, or not, but in terms of word count, you’ll have an idea of which chapters need cutting down just by comparing the size of each ‘Summary’ cell in your spreadsheet with the number of words noted in the column next to it. A small, two-sentence ‘Summary’ cell next to the number 1,700? Highlight it for trimming.

Don’t just do this by eye though. When you’re editing, go down each row of your spreadsheet, each chapter of your book, and ask yourself, “Do I really need 1,700 words for a chapter where Joan is waiting for John to call?”

I do this for all my books now, and it serves another purpose: When you look down the ‘Summary’ column and the first several cells show that nothing interesting is happening yet, or there’s are a few cells in the middle of the column where there’s nothing exciting, you’ll realise you need to tighten up the beginning of your novel or add some drama to the middle of it.

You can find my others posts on writing tips under the 'Posts on Writing' section of my blog (if you're looking at the desktop version).

Thank you for reading this post. If you're interested in my debut novel, click the image below to learn more about it:

Like all my other books, it's also available on:
iBooks   |   B&N Nook   |   Kobo |   Smashwords 

Book Details

Length: 110,000 words
Genre: Contemporary Romance / Clean Romance / Diverse Romance / Interracial Romance / Romantic Drama / Women’s Fiction

Mood: Inspirational / Feel Good / Coming of Age / Dark
Content: Sexy but No explicit sex scenes / No erotica
Audience: New Adult & College / Adult / Female Readers

Recommended for: Readers that enjoy romance novels with serious issues and characters with depth. This is a story about life, love, friendship, family, music, art, destiny and soul mates.

And the first two books in my urban fantasy/paranormal romance series, the Poison Blood series, can be downloaded for free via:

Amazon USAmazon UK|   iBooks US & UK   |   B&N Nook Store   |   Smashwords

PB1 Book Details

Length: 29,000 words
Genre: Paranormal Romance / Vampire Romance / Paranormal Fantasy / Urban Fantasy / Science Fiction & Fantasy

Mood: Dark / Humorous / Coming of age
Content: No violence / No explicit sex scenes / No erotica
Audience: Teen / Young Adult / New Adult / Adult
Recommended for: Readers that love all things vampires, slayers and witches!

No comments:

Post a Comment