Fifty-thousand words, that is. Last night, when I hit that 50,000 word mark in my unfinished novel, I had those same feelings as when I finished in my first Bay to Breakers race around fifteen years ago- surprise, exhilaration and complete satisfaction! Just like I knew I would finish the race, I know that I will finish this novel.
Anybody who believes that writing is easy is wrong. Just ask the writers who make a living with the artistry of their words, who have deadlines to meet, agents, editors and publishers to satisfy, and long hours trying to weave their words into saleable material. Just ask those of us who write long hours after our jobs to try and create a story that will grab readers and make them want to keep reading. I have not reached the “author” stage yet, but I know many who have. Just like novelists-in-progress, they produce a lot of sweat to put out an excellent product.
Currently, I am working on my second draft, which is quite different from my first. Why? Because the first time around, I was writing just to get the basic story down. This second draft, my story has been developing more meat around the plot, depth to my characters and the knowledge that if I have come this far, I can reach that finish line.
In fact, I guesstimate that I am about five or six chapters from the end. I don’t know how many words I will need to accomplish this. My goal is to complete this draft by the end of April, but I will not beat myself up too much if this does not happen. The first rule of thumb is to be kind to yourself no matter what.
One thing a writer must remember is that words are not just words. While a certain word count is necessary to comply with publisher guidelines, a writer cannot just write words for the sake of word count. When I was eighteen, my mother bought me one of the most valuable books in my library, Make Every Word Count, by Gary Provost. Now, thirty years later, the highlighting in this section has faded out, but the words are like music to me:
Remember this: the reader is always aware of the words you use and of the fact that you chose to use them. He takes your mistakes seriously. It doesn’t occur to him that a word slipped by you or that it jumped onto the page when you weren’t looking… (pg. 67)
Remember, word count is important, but make sure they are the right words. As for me, I must see what my characters are up to now. Happy writing!