Word Counts

I have decidedly mixed feelings about word counts.

At university they caused me no end of grief. The numbers always seemed to go up incredibly slowly at the start of an assignment – painfully slowly, even – and yet as soon as I’d found my stride, BAM! Somehow I’d be over the limit. Yes, word counts tormented me, and as time went on, I became increasingly afraid to look for fear of what I might find.

Working on my novel, however, they’ve definitely had their uses. Over the last few months, setting myself numerical targets has pushed me to find time for my novel and pushed me to actually write – to get the words out of my head and down onto the page. They’ve helped me to become more disciplined and they’ve made it all feel significantly more manageable, too: it’s not nearly so daunting, sitting down to write when you know you’ve got a target that’s within reach.

And yet these past few weeks, I’ve found myself pulling away from the numbers again. My manuscript’s pretty substantial now. It’s approaching 50,000 words, and when I flick through, I feel there’s a decent amount there. But I also know that I’ve still got a huge amount to do, and although there are certainly gaps that need filling, there are also creases to iron out, plotlines to weave together, final bits of planning to do – fiddly tasks that won’t necessarily translate to a rise in words.

If I’m going to finish this book, I know that I need to keep driving forwards, but if I carry on doggedly chasing x number of words a week I suspect that my ‘progress’ will end up being rather superficial. That’s why, for the moment, I’m shifting my focus slightly and adopting a more task-based’ approach. It may be nice, seeing the numbers go up, but ultimately it’s ‘what’ rather than ‘how much’ that matters.

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CC Image courtesy of Yann Duarte on Flickr

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Advice: Take It or Leave It

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Yes, My Wordy Journey’s had a makeover. Why? Well, partly because it’s been rather a long time since my last post and it was starting to look a bit neglected – and I couldn’t have that. But mainly, it was because I kept finding sources advising bloggers against the use of light text on dark backgrounds; apparently it can be difficult to read, put off followers, and it’s just generally not a good idea.

Oops.

It can be difficult to know how to respond to advice. On this occasion, I took it – and I took it fairly readily. As fond as I was of my original colour scheme, I don’t have a great deal of experience blogging and if a slightly different theme makes my site more accessible, it’ll be worth it. However, I have to admit, I’m not always so quick to embrace other people’s suggestions, particularly when it comes to my novel.

Whatever the situation, I’ll always try to listen and consider. I think that’s important. There are a huge number of people out there with advice for aspiring authors, and you can learn a lot from the experiences of others. I’m only 21, this is the first book I’ve ever tried to write, and it is hard. Tips, recommendations, pearls of wisdom – if they can make the process any easier, or save me from making costly mistakes, brilliant. But sometimes I’ll be reading through an article or pondering the advice someone’s given me and my gut will just tell me no. I don’t want to do that; I don’t think it’s right for me and for what I’m trying to do. And you know what? I think that’s okay.

At the end of the day, everybody’s different; we work in different ways, have different passions, different goals. Do I like it when somebody chooses not to take my advice? No, not particularly, and I certainly don’t think we should be afraid of accepting guidance. However, it’s our differences that make life interesting, and as long as we listen to others and accept responsibility for our decisions, I don’t think we should be resented for choosing our own paths.

Progress report: 44,500 words