Counting Words

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If you will forgive the cliché, counting words is a writers bread and butter. There are word counts for everything. Each type of writing comes with a word length guideline. Every magazine has a different word length, often for each different genre that they accept.

Most of the challenges I have been taking on have been word count challenges.

My 500 words is a fabulous challenge that got me back into writing everyday. The only rule is to write 500 words each day.

NaNoWriMo is a word count challenge of 50,000 words in a 30 day time period.

Even Camp NaNoWriMo has a word count challenge,though the limit is set by each writer. I’ve set mine at 20,000 just to have some breathing room.

There is a lot to be said for writing a said amount of words each day but the one thing that these don’t talk about is word quality. Of course each of the above challenges I’ve mention run on the honor system so it is possible to write pure garbage and still complete the challenge. I know. I’ve done it.

At some point, I would like quality to win out over quantity. I am just going to believe all those fabulous writers who have gone before me when they say the quality will come. I read somewhere once that being a writer is the only profession where the apprenticeship involves writing a million words. I wonder how close I am.

I believe in garbage first drafts. There is something to just getting words down on paper. However, they can’t stay like that. It is my desire to spend much of my time working with those million words and honing them to the right word at the right time. I’m not good at it but as with anything, it takes practice. And more practice. And still more.

I think I’m intimidated by the words on paper. They are just so black and white. Who am I to change them? Didn’t I really say what I wanted to say the first time?

The answer is and always need to be no. I find splashes of inspiration in those words but they are always messy, even unruly. Messy words, chaotic sentences. This is where the real learning comes in. And the real writing.

I have a lot to learn.

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