writers block

Word Count Intimidation


Dear Editor…

As I understand it, a young adult novel needs to have a word count of between 40,000 and 60,000 words. The thought of having to write that much paralyses me at word one. I don’t know how I’ll be able to write that much, how I’ll be able to stretch my story and whether I may be wasting my time. What should I do?


Dear JC…

Well, at least you know your freak-out trigger. Now let’s take aim at it. I’ve got two assignments for you. First, be done with numbers. Pledge not to count words until you type THE END on the final scene. Do not set word count goals for your writing sessions. Do not set a word count goal for your finished manuscript. Word count means nothing to you if you haven’t even written the story, so you don’t care about it anyway. Second, stop thinking about “completing the manuscript.” Shift your entire concept of writing this book to scene-writing rather than manuscript completion, then make each writing session goal be about working on a specific scene. “Today I’m going to write that fight between Max and Bob… today I’m going to see how Jane reacts to Joan’s news.” Scene are conversations, and conflicts, and action. Scenes are story, not stats. You can outline your story by viewing it as a sequence of scenes; you can revise your story by attacking scenes and scene sequences. None of that requires counting. Trigger eliminated, and story unleashed.

Happy writing!
The Editor