IWSG: Every Word Counts
It’s time for more rants about my writing insecurities, courtesy of the inimitable Alex J. Cavanaugh. If you’re not already part of the horde of Insecure Writers that is taking the literary world by storm, click this here linky, where you’ll find some of the nicest writers on the world-wide web.
Now for this month’s rant.
I’m determined to keep this post under five hundred words, and I give you permission to stop reading at word five hundred and one. Why would I do that?
I’m a writer, dammit. I have a lot to say. Is that bad?
Actually, yes. Because I’ve discovered that in my quest to fill the screen with words I’ve gone a little overboard. I’m wordy, otherwise known as verbose, loquacious, long-winded, flowery, garrulous, chatty, and overwrought. I’m the most talkative person at the novel-writing party. I’m the windbag that talks your ear off, eats the last of the crudités, and won’t go home, even after the party hosts have snuck off to bed.
That was okay for a while. I knew I wasn’t a short story writer, and because of that I even concluded I wasn’t a writer at all. But when I sat down to write the story that I always wanted to read, I ended up with a 126k first draft of a novel. I went on to win NaNoWriMo three years in a row, with a word count of 75k, 122k, and 107k each year. A hundred thousand words in a month doesn’t even make me break a sweat.
But now that I’m trying to revise my novel into something marketable, my hefty word count has come back to haunt me. As part of the process of rewriting, I did some calculations based on what I thought were my better developed scenes and estimated that my average scene length would be about 1400 words. Using that figure I went on to sketch out my scenes for revision and charted a course of sixty-nine scenes for a completed novel of about 97k.
Enter Ms. Wordy.
It turns out my scenes average closer to 2000 words, so if I’m not careful, my mainstream -with-elements-of-paranormal novel will clock in at a bloated 138k words.
Right now, I’m flirting with 115k, and really hoping some of my upcoming scenes lose some words and stay below their projected length.
I did some homework with Scrivener in Outliner mode to see where things went wrong. (And don’t you just love Scrivener? All those features … but I digress, and the clock is ticking on my five hundred word post—)
(The ‘target’ word count is the count for my first draft of the scenes.)
Does this mean my novel is doomed? Will my word count woes spell the ultimate collapse of my fragile publication dreams?
And, how do these bounteous word counts befall me, anyway?
Allow me, before this post’s word count kicks my prolific butt, to give an example.
“This is going to sound weird,” Nick said. Another wave rushed under Libra’s feet, and Nick pulled her away from the water. “Sure you don’t mind the water?”
“Not at all.” Libra smiled as the sand tickled her toes. “But tell me, what’s weird?”
“I saw you, twice before the night of the accident.”
Warning: My post crossed the 500 word mark in the middle of that excerpt. So, you can stop reading …
But, like the blabbermouth I am, I decided this was choppy and sounded somewhat unnatural. I revised it to this:
Another wave rushed under Libra’s feet, and Nick pulled her away from the surf. “Sure you don’t mind the water?”
“Not at all.” Libra smiled as the sand tickled her toes. She caught sight of Nick’s eyes in the moonlight before he turned to hide his face as if in shame.
“This is going to sound weird,” Nick said. “And I don’t know if I should even tell you this. You’ll think I’m nuts.”
“I would never think you’re nuts.”
“Cross my heart. So tell me―what’s weird?”
“I saw you, twice, before the night of the accident.”
Oh, dear. My five hundred words came and went about two hundred words ago…
What do you think, insecure writers? How do you make every word count? Anybody got a weed wacker in their novel revision toolshed? I could really use one right now!