Sunday, January 10, 2010

Word Count Addiction

We all know who we are and there are thousands upon thousands of us out there. We are writers who judge their own success by their daily word count. Addicts that can’t get up for that cup of coffee, or go to the grocery until they reach an acceptable total for their sitting. It’s a grind. It’s a habit. But we writers all do it to keep going.

Nationally, there are many writing groups that pound the keys in mutual suffering. They count together. They are writers who cheer each other on, support those feeling weakened as they lag behind, and generally keep up the word count progress like hamsters racing on the wheel. I’m currently signed up for my local romance writers’ chapter for a 70 day challenge, which is called the Sven Challenge. It stands for 70 days of sweat. The web site has a buff man sweating, which isn’t a very pretty analogy for our toil, but it’s apt.

I’ve done these national and group challenges before. My Circle of Crones writing group tended to put out smaller challenges four times a year before we petered out. I’ve also been a NaNoWrMo, National Novel Writing Month, winner three years running. There are a lot of us out there and not all of us are unpublished wannabes, either. Jennifer Crusie participated in NaNoWrMo's November torture. She wrote in her blog,, about it. I had to laugh, because she sounded just as miserable and as frustrated as the rest of us trying to keep up the pace. Word counting is a writer's jogging. You breathe hard, sweat buckets and all to get the raw material of a story out on the page.

It’d be ridiculous if it weren’t so necessary. Word counting is not a new writer’s game, in point of fact. Famous, long gone authors did it too. Anais Nin got paid for each word of erotica that she wrote for her anonymous benefactor. She kept diligent records. So did many of the authors, such as Dashiell Hammett and a plethora of depression era authors, who were paid a penny a word. There are whole hand typed and edited marred manuscripts with little word count scribbles in the corners out there. I wonder if authors like Jane Austen did it too. I can imagine they wrote notes to themselves with their quill and ink in the margins: Great day for Jane! She writ 500 words for the day!

The camaraderie is what is important nowadays. No longer do we writers slave away in attic rooms or corners of the parlor, isolated in our thoughts whilst the world goes on outside. They counted words alone, but we count words together. Writers now have a window via the internet and a voice, usually whining about their lack of progress, but a voice nonetheless. We’re cheerleaders for each other, and each word counts. I’m a word count addict and I’m standing proud with my brethren. You better believe that I’m tallying up this 500 plus word count toward my 70,000 word goal. You can bet your bippy that my Sven Sweat Challenge is 524 words richer. Come mid-March, I'll be posting a high five for having made the 70,000 word count total. Go team!