Shrinking Words & Other Writing Quandaries

Amazing how a couple months away can give new perspective. Allowing myself to move back through Expecting Happiness, stopping at each spot that bugs me, feels really good. The only thing that doesn’t feel so good is watching my word count drop a bit.

I blame NaNoWriMo for two things: 1. My obsession with word count, 2. A lot of extra words that don’t belong. I get that you go back and get rid of them later, or now, but I do think it results in writing that may be more repetitive than if you just go slowly and don’t worry about how many words you hit a day. Either way, it’s a year later and here I am working on the same book.

This leaves me wondering whether I need to add more words for the sake of having a full-length book… Right now I’m at 68,500, but I know it will drop a bit further as I continue. For any of you who have e-published, how many words were your projects?

My current plan is this:

1. Revisit each chapter with the same care I’ve given the prologue/Chapter 1 this week

2. Reread the whole thing to make sure it still makes sense/check for errors

3. Finish my queries/recontact appropriate contacts

4. If nothing comes of the second round of querying/contacts, I will e-publish and/or share on my blog. I’m not sure which approach to take yet. I just know I need to put it out there in order to move on…

More than anything, I am finding it much more sustainable to slow down and get the work done a little at a time instead of feeling like I need to use every moment of my spare time to write. That was burning me out in every aspect of my life, especially my day job. Slowing down these past two months has made a huge difference. Now it’s time to get serious and get this book done, even if it is just an hour or so at a time.

Happy balanced Sunday.

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12 thoughts on “Shrinking Words & Other Writing Quandaries

  1. kingmidget says:

    One Night in Bridgeport was at 80,000, shot up to 120,000, and then through massive editing and cutting, I got it to about 96,000. Weed Therapy is in the 74,000 range. I think e-publishing favors shorter books. It certainly has made publishing more possible for shorter reads anyway. Personally, because of the options that are available now, you shouldn’t worry about word count. I say that knowing I obsess over it just like you are right now. But, just write the story you want to tell and see what happens. The Irrepairable Past, the story I’m working on now, seems like I’ll struggle to get to 50,000 words on it. In some respects, though I don’t want it to be longer than that because of the type of story it is. There are a lot — a lot — of well-received, even award winning, novels out there that are in the 50,000-60,000 word range.

    • oliviaobryon says:

      Very interesting perspective, thanks for sharing! Makes me feel a little better as some of those hard-earned words disappear 🙂 How interesting that Bridgeport fluctuated so much. Must have been hard to let go of those words too!

      • kingmidget says:

        Actually wasn’t hard at all. The first draft … the first thing I’d ever written … was told in first person. I decided that switching to third person would make it easier to tell some of the other pieces of the story. Hence, the 40,000 words that got added on. Then, when I decided to publish it, I wanted to get it below 100,000. After letting it sit there for years, I started reading it and, well, it was kind of like a “wow” moment. Cutting those 20,000 words wasn’t hard at all.

      • oliviaobryon says:

        I guess that makes sense– I don’t think I’d hate cutting words quite as much if I had 100k+ to choose from. I just fear going too short, but I also know there are places I could add more, and your thoughts on shorter pieces were encouraging. Thank you!

    • kingmidget says:

      Maybe I’m projecting my own reading habits on to others, but I don’t think so. A 500 page hard copy book isn’t a challenge to me. But when I see how long a book is on a Kindle, I shudder at the longer ones. I have absolutely no idea why, but I think it has to do with how electronic things change our attention. I simply do not want to read something that long while staring at my Kindle. But give me a sofa, a blanket, and a chance to curl up with a thick book and I’m there. I think most people are probably the same way … electronic devices shorten our attention span. The Sense of An Ending by Julian Barnes, published six months ago, and generally well-received, is only 176 pages long. If you figure 250-300 words per page, that’s between 44,000 and 52,800 words. Total. You’re fine. Tell a great story and it doesn’t matter. That is the one and only rule of writing fiction.

      • oliviaobryon says:

        That makes sense to me. I have yet to buy a Kindle, so I haven’t formed an opinion. I prefer real books, but I see the day coming when I’ll at least give it a shot, (namely when someone buys me a Kindle). My husband reads on his iPad, but he has yet to convince me I’d like it as much as a regular book. However, since my audience is in all likelihood electronic, I am excited to hear of the successes of other shorter works… Although, at this point, it will just be a success to finish the darn thing and be brave enough to share it with people who don’t actually know me in real life. 🙂

      • kingmidget says:

        When I started Bridgeport it was to see if I could write a novel. Once I had done that, the next step seemed logical. Get over that fear. You’ll never know until you take that step. You could have the next great American novel on your hands. Or, you could have something may be moderately successful. Or, yes, it’s possible, it may be something less than that. But, well, how could you possibly know until you put it out there. So, finish the darn thing. This round of editing you’re engaged in? Make it your last and just commit to the effort.

      • oliviaobryon says:

        You’re right. I don’t know what I’m so scared of– people not liking it? There will be those people no matter what. Thanks, as always, for the encouragement, it helps hearing about your experiences.

  2. jeffo says:

    What’s the genre on EXPECTING HAPPINESS? That can make a difference in what’s expected, but there’s nothing wrong with shorter novels.

    I’m glad you’re finding the overall re-read to be a positive. That’s a great thing!

    • oliviaobryon says:

      Commercial/mainstream fiction… Maybe chick lit, but I don’t like that label. And, yes, that seems to be what I have read, that it depends on the type of book. I just knew it was already on the short side so I hate to see words go… But, I know it’s for the better!

  3. Not sure if this helps but another blog I follow had a post about this very thing ( and they had some suggestions you may find helpful. I am not ready to read or go through my NaNo project yet, I will probably start in the new year, but this is my fear too. During editing, rewrites etc my novel could be a whole 5 sentences long! I just made it to winner with 51206 words in my first draft and it will definately need some beefing up if I ever hope to do something with it! Good luck to you!

    • oliviaobryon says:

      So interesting! I’m so glad you shared the link. I feel conflicted about whether to favor brevity or description… Good food for thought, thanks for sharing. Also, best of luck fixing up your NaNo project, may you end up with exactly the right number of words 😉

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