Monday, September 1, 2014

Holy Word Count!

I'm over at From the Write Angle today talking about how to make your writing leaner. I know from experience how daunting that can be, but that experience has made me a much stronger writer today.

Probably 6 years ago or so, I decided to write a novel. I knew nothing. NOTHING. Absolutely nothing.

But I had read a whole slew (or six slews) of novels, so I wasn't in the least bit daunted.

The story ended up at over 170 000 words.

Yup, you read that right.

Then I stumbled upon Agent Query Connect and started to learn what writing a novel was all about. I learned a lot. Backstory, dialogue tags, strong verbs instead of verb/adverb combinations, echoes, tension, conflict, character arcs...

So I revised. And revised again a couple of (dozen) times.

Eventually, the story was down to 81 000. Less than half. And it was SO much better!

But I wouldn't trade the experience of writing that story in all its over-padded glory for anything. It will always have a safe place in my hard drive. I learned more from writing that story ... and revising that story ... than I could have from a dozen classes.

How about you? Any fond memories of your first serious attempt at writing?

29 comments:

  1. Jemi--170,000...whew!

    I had several incompletes. :) Then, when I was finally ready to finish a manuscript, I was better prepared, having learned from my mistakes before.

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  2. I hope (know) you use the process of writing that first novel to inspire your students to reach their goals. The hard work does pay off in the end.

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  3. I had one that hit 200,000. One set of revisions alone cut 30,000 words.

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  4. A hundred seventy THOUSAND? And I thought I wrote long! I've never come that close.

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  5. Yikes. I thought mine was bad. My first draft of my memoir was 700 pages. I don't remember the word count.

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  6. Book one of my fantasy trilogy had a word count of 219,000, so I can relate to that! My first stand alone book sat at 140K and is now at 132K but still needs a serious slash and burn session. Ah well. One of these days...

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  7. Elizabeth - I know! It was a very 'large' learning experience! :)

    Mason - actually I've been cowardly in that department! No one knows I write. Not sure how my board would feel about me writing romance! :)

    Diane - that's awesome!! Glad I'm not alone!

    Karen - and I never know pages! But 700 sounds like a LOT too! :)

    Marcy - 219 is BIG! Love it - all those words to play with :)

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  8. yep, the first book I've ever translated took me three months to finish :) and now I can translate a novel in a month and a week or less :)

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  9. Learning by doing is quite the experience. Of course, I'd never do anything like that. . .Wait! I think I have. No. I'm sure I have. The 200,000 word behemoth nests at the back of one of my shelves.

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  10. OMG! Jemi! 170K? None of my books are anywhere near that!

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  11. Dezzy - it's great to see that progress! Our brains learn to work so much more efficiently!

    Lee - And I bet that hidden gem taught you all kinds of things! :)

    Kelly - I know!! Thankfully, my newer ones are much leaner :)

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  12. It appears our writing history is much the same. My word count (some years ago) was 180,000. It is now 76,000. And like you, I could not have gleaned the experience from 'any' book.

    Like they say, practice makes perfect :)

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  13. I can relate. My first novel was 219k Yikes!

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  14. My second complete manuscript, at the age of 19, was 800-850 pages, standard font and margins--I can't remember the count on my word processor or if it even had that function. I'll check out the link.

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  15. Wendy - very close indeed! And we'll keep practising!

    Lynda - love it!

    Medeia - Wow!!! That's a lot of pages! :)

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  16. I don't remember what my initial word count was; I just remember Terri Bruce having a virtual heart attack. hahahaha I think it was around 150k. I'm down to 96k and counting a the moment. :)

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  17. Wow, that is a high word count! :) My first novel was about 100,000 words when it really should have been about 60-70K. But all of my novels since then have actually been too short! I don't know how that happened.

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  18. All of us start at the beginning, no matter how undaunted we are :)

    Writing is about the journey. I wouldn't trade anything either.

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  19. Debra - Love it! I remember being shocked that mine was high too. Love Terri's reaction :)

    Shelley - it was high! My latest one is a bare bones one too. Gone too far the other way :)

    Carol - exactly! I've enjoyed every moment of the journey so far!

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  20. I did the same thing with my first novel, which was about 6 years ago too! Mine ended at around 160,000 words. Then I met other writers online and someone informed me about word count. LOL I was devastated. But word count is important. It can help make or break a story. I'm not just talking about a publisher picking it up. I'm referring to what should be included in the store as opposed to what should be left out to make it more effective.

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  21. Sheri - exactly! My discovery about backstory was my most eye opening and helpful!!

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  22. Oh, wow! What a transformation! I am still fond of that first manuscript, although it'll never see the light of day.

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  23. Eds - exactly!!

    Julie - me too! Even the thought of it will always make me smile :)

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  24. I seem to be the opposite!
    I struggle to write lots of words... is something wrong with me?
    I'm trying...

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  25. So many learning opportunities! I remember writing my first picture book and being positive it would be accepted by the first publisher I sent it to. (Of course, I never did publish it.) But after all these years, I'm still learning things all the time.

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  26. Michelle - not even a little bit! The current rewrite I'm on turned out to be 15k short! But I'm having fun fleshing out those bones!

    Beth - me too! And I think that's what makes it so much fun!

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  27. I definitely agree with you! When I started my ms was probably double the word count that it is now. Less is more and boy did I learn a lot because of it (and I am still learning).
    ~Jess

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  28. Jess - less really is more! And I'm still learning too - and it's so much fun!

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