I thought this would be a good topic to discuss, especially since I’m back to writing Erase. I also think it’s a great way to evaluate progress as a writer.
When I first started writing, my first draft word counts were colossal. Typically they were over 100,000 words, which meant a lot of editing and paring down. I think the reason my word counts were so huge was mostly due to the fact that I hadn’t learnt how to really create a succinct plot. These novels would have so much in them that it would be hard to keep track of everything. There would be chapters which were fillers, simply there to build up to the next sub-plot. There wasn’t much skill in the writing.
But as I’ve become more practised at writing novels, the first draft word count for my projects has continued to fall, and I think this shows good progress. I’ve slowly learned how to get to the point. I’ve actively tried to avoid long-winded sub-plots. I’d like to hope I don’t have many (or any, in an ideal world) filler chapters.
To demonstrate this trend, I thought I’d catalogue my first draft word counts up to my recent project. I’ll go by project initials.
Novel 1 – RW: 140,000 (I don’t have an exact number, since I started my first edits without creating a new document; it got edited down to 77,000, clearly reflecting all the waste)
Novel 2 – S: 103,489 (I may have edited this one on the first draft, because I don’t think this one is wholly correct. If this were a graph, this would be the outlier.)
Novel 3 – RC: 135, 793 (This one even surprised me. I didn’t remember it being that huge! That’s 248 pages. Really.)
Novel 4 – SRM: 113, 375 (Going down slowly but surely.)
Novel 5 – RA: 72, 606 (We’re finally getting somewhere!)
Novel 6 – RF: Incomplete. (However if it had been completed I can assure you it would have been huge.)
Novel 7 – NYR: 56, 932 (This is my short story collection. Six stories, all near 10,000 words, so I expected it to be around this count.)
Novel 8 – Erase: I’m at 38,000 words right now. I imagine I’m about half away, if not just over. But since I have no idea what’s actually going to happen next, I’m not entirely sure what the final count will be.
I do think writing all these novels has helped me learn a lot about how to write a first draft. I learn something new every time I write another novel. But I’m glad I decided to really break down my word counts today, and I invite you do to the same. It shows my progress, and sometimes with writing, that can be hard to see.
What are your word counts like? Do they tend to go down the more you write, or go up?