Oh, for goodness sake stop counting, Teresa.
Why do we writers do this? Obsess with the maths.
If I write a thousand words a day, I will have a book in so many weeks…
If I write 500 words by lunch, then divide by the paragraph I first thought of, I will be re-born as Zadie Smith….
Sometimes when I start a new book, I set myself temporarily free of all this madness. To be frank it feels both exhilarating and too daunting all at the same time. In the very early days of a MS, I simply can’t bear to check the word count as the hill ahead is too darn steep. I keep my head down into the wind and it’s only when I pass the quarter mark, that I can face it.
Then the pendulum swings entirely the other way and I become completely obsessed with the word count– checking the numbers much too often for my own ( or anyone else’s) sanity, carefully working out precisely what
percentage of the book I’ve written.
It is pure, yes - madness and I should clearly stop doing it immediately but the truth is it is an addiction. Probably just one of the many procrastination techniques I have developed to distract myself from the task in hand.
Naughty, naughty writer.
Stop doing the maths and just write, damn you.
But hang on a minute. While we have the calculator and the word count button to hand, I have just
realised something rather nice. Tap, tap. = button. Well, goodness gracious. Seems I have passed something of a milestone in my writing life. Yup. According to my sums, I have now officially sold a “book’s worth” of fiction. And if “A book’s worth” sounds a strange turn of phrase...
Oh, all right. All right. What I have actually done is sold a book’s length…but in terms of short stories. Dozens of ‘em. And while we’re pressing buttons – tap, tap, tap – according to my calculations, I have earned from short fiction more or less the sort of sum I would have earned from the advance from one of the major publishers for a first novel (that is; according to my spies. Modest first advance, please note. I am not Cecelia Ahern, more’s the pity).
Anyway. Experienced authors may smile. Even mock. But for me this is significant. For though I have earned a jolly fair living from words as a journalist for decades, I have yet to nail that elusive book deal in the fiction field –
despite having a super enthusiastic literary agent and more near misses than air traffic control.
So this word count milestone, then?
Smile you may but I reckon I might just savour it. Yes, indeedy. Makes me feel as if I am at least on the right track. Especially as an email has just pinged into my inbox confirming the sale of another 2,000-word short story to a leading mag which ups the word count and the dosh yet again. ( Pause while she taps number into calculator).
So. A “book’s worth” – ahem- of fiction sold, eh?
As a man might say to a pig…
PS If you live in Devon and fancy picking up some tips on your short story writing, do check out my next workshop. Details by clicking here : WORKSHOP JULY 20
(PPS Word count of this blog = 500+ . Sorry. Just saying)
Teresa Driscoll - journalist, author, mother of two and lover of great coffee.