Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Getting to The End, Part 1

Most writers measure their daily progress either by page count or word count. I seem to be in the minority as a page-counter, based on an unscientific survey of authors who brag/moan about that day's accomplishments on their blogs.

Counting pages is less precise than counting words--after all, should a half-page at the end of a chapter really have the same weight as a full page? What about a page of dialogue versus a page of description?

the word-counters cry. That's cheating! Get back to work before I rap your knuckles!

To which I say, it's a novel, not the SATs. Assuming you're not plagiarizing (and who would have the stones to plagiarize a novel? hee hee), there's no such thing as cheating. As long as you get the job done in the end, who cares how you do it?

Besides, once you reach a certain point in the manuscript, you're just trying to finish the story. It's only at the beginning when the discipline of a page/word count is needed.

Doing a word count involves math, and the obsessive use of the Word Count feature (Alt-F, I, Statistics tab), whereas a page count involves glancing at the number at the bottom of the screen. Anything that can streamline the process for me gets my vote. I know that in the end, if the manuscript is between 500 and 650 double-spaced pages, it's the right length for most publishers.

That's about 100K-125K words, by the way. In case anyone's interested, I try to reduce the size by about 10% from the first draft to the final. Eyes of Crow went from 124K to 112K. Bad Company went from 108K to, uh, 107.5K. (I had to add a few scenes to develop a subplot.)

Big caveat: I discovered last year that focusing on the daily volume of writing, rather than the story itself, can lead to time-chomping pitfalls. So I've come up with a third way. I hope it works.

Stay tuned tomorrow.



Gosh, I never once thought it was cheating to go by page count. I use wordcount for my daily stuff and page count to determine how close to done I am with the novel. :)


Posted by: Blogger CE Murphy at 5/10/2006 1:12 PM

That's funny, because I use page count for daily progress and word count to see how close I am to finishing. :-)

I can't remember who said it was cheating to do pages instead of words. Maybe it was just the evil taskmaster superego in my head. I just tried Googling "word count versus page count cheating" and found nothing.

I also found that word count is calculated at 250 words/page, not 200. But my current WIP is 50 pages and about 10K, according to the computer's word count, which I know is different than what publishers use. But still, why would it be off by 25%?

I really should write shorter books. But I loves my subplots.

And my verification word is nearly a novel in itself.

Posted by: Blogger Jeri at 5/10/2006 1:34 PM

Me too! Me too! Subplots and minor characters!! And they use a lot of exclamation points!!! Yeah!

Okay. Now I am going to check out how many pages I actually have.

And does it matter if you're using Courier or Times?

I just think Courier is ugly. Hate it.

Posted by: Blogger moonhart at 5/10/2006 3:30 PM

Found a good article on how publishers determine word count. Note when Rothman says payment is determined by word count, he's referring to short stories. Novelists get paid the same amount (agreed upon ahead of time) whether we turn in 100K or 120K. Sometimes the contract states a range it should fall between, but every publisher/line has guidelines.

Many genre books, including mysteries and category romances, fall between 65K and 80K. To me as a writer, that seems luxuriously short, BUT it can actually be tougher to write a shorter novel than a longer one. The plot has to be ultra-streamlined, like in a movie.

Posted by: Blogger Jeri at 5/10/2006 3:31 PM

Hi Moon!

Funny, while you were posting that comment, I was posting the Rothman article in my own comment. He explains that there is a difference between Times and Courier in terms of word count, because Times is a proportional font and Courier is fixed-width (i.e., every letter takes up the same amount of space). He explains it better than I do.

I used to hate Courier, too. I would write my mss in Times Roman, single spaced, with a break between paragraphs. Then when I was ready to submit I had to change the formatting. Finally I decided it wasn't worth the pain. Now I write in Courier, double-spaced, even for the first draft.

Posted by: Blogger Jeri at 5/10/2006 3:35 PM

Oh I just checked. 455. in Times.

I swear I get chills.


Posted by: Blogger moonhart at 5/10/2006 3:36 PM

EEP! That's a honest-to-goodness, USDA-certified novel, Moon! Good for you.

Double-spaced, right? 'Cuz if it's 455 pages single-spaced, you have yourself a duology.

Posted by: Blogger Jeri at 5/10/2006 4:07 PM

Yes. Double-spaced. And I finished my revision notes!!! So today I start rewriting!!!!


See? Exclamation points.



Posted by: Blogger moonhart at 5/11/2006 10:28 AM

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