Thursday, May 26, 2011

Just a Thousand More Words Please

Word counts are the bane of many writers. Your first novel is over 100k? You might want to look at some trimming. Under 70k? Only if you're writing middle grade or younger. There are guidelines all over the internet on what constitutes a good word count for just about any genre of fiction. That's not what this post is about though.

One of the greatest things about digital publishing is beyond the "are you insane, even Tolkien was smart enough to make three books!" word counts, digital publishers are embracing all kinds of lengths. In fact, the first piece I had published was Of Course I Try at barely over 5k. Over the course of the next seven months, I released one around 10k, another between 15 and 20k, another at about 33k, and my YA which clocked in at just about 86k. I loved every one of those projects.

Right now, however, I'm working on a contest entry and realized that I've grown so used to the "any word count is a good word count" mentality that I really had a hard time with the 5-7k word limit. Like...really hard time. The first story I started for the contest is already well over that count and isn't close to being done (BTW, TriggerHappy won for band name for that particular story, tentatively titled GunShy). So, I set it aside and tried again. At first I wondered if I could possibly make this new story stretch to 5k. I just didn't think there was enough there (of course it doesn't help matters that it's a brand new genre for me, so a lot of guessing and O.o was involved in the writing). Then, once I crossed 5k, I had an "oh shit, I only have 2000 words left to play with" moment.

I finished it, and it's within the word count requirements. I'm really not sure if the ending was rushed though. I have less than 200 words to play with to make it the best it can be and that scares the crap out of me.

The funny part in all this is I used to do writing challenges with 1000 or 2000 word total limits all the time. Meeting 5-7k should be a breeze. But it's not. Not if you're out of practice at least. So, I'm sitting here tonight, dreading the feedback I'm going to get from my betas. I want them to be hard on me because I want it to be good...but I don't want it to suck because I don't have it in me to make another attempt at this by the deadline.

Oh yeah...there's a deadline. What the hell was I thinking? Oh, I remember. It was an excuse, just like those old challenges, to try something new and push myself out of my comfort zone. Yeah. I think I left that behind well over 7k words ago.

So what about you? What word counts do you write in and do you find it hard to switch it up? Or do limits make you happy since you know exactly what you have to work with and how close you are to done?

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