Tipping the word count scale in your favor

Like so many things, the writing life is easier if you celebrate the small victories along the way. Example: I hit 1,000 words in my  work in progress – Yay! Although, if you’re like me, it’s more like: I hit 1,000 words – gosh, only 79,000 more to go.

It’s that feeling of stepping on the scales at Weight Watchers after being really, really strict on your diet all week. You expect (fantasize) that that you’ve lost at least five pounds, only to see that you’ve lost one pound, maybe. And that’s after skipping lunch in anticipation of the weigh-in. You think: Big whoop. I passed up eating that cookie I really, really wanted for this?

You’ve probably guessed by now that I need to up my game when it comes to mental toughness and discipline. I admit it. But, I have found a great trick, if you will, to help me out in this department. And I’m going to share it with you. (This probably won’t help those of you who never skip going to the gym or always hit your 3,000-a-day word count. But if you tend toward being a whiny slacker like me, who knows?)

By the way, this is a writing tip. When it comes to weight loss, I got nothing.

Ready for it?

Not all words count equally.

Tipping the Scales
source: pixabay

We can give ourselves extra credit for some words. For instance, when you finally work out the first paragraph in the novel, and you know you’ve nailed it. Bam! That’s worth a whole day’s word count. Seriously. You can take the rest of the day off!

Why? Because that’s the most important passage in the whole book. When someone’s browsing through the bookstore, trying to decide which book to buy (assuming it’s by an author they’re not already familiar with), they first notice the title and cover art. Then they flip the book over and scan the teaser on the back cover. Then, if they’re intrigued thus far, they open up to the first page and read the first paragraph. That first paragraph, or two if you’re lucky, determines whether they buy the book or stick it back on the shelf. So, go ahead and give yourself extra credit for nailing the first paragraph! Yay, you!

It’s like final exams where some questions are worth more points than others. Here’s my scale, you can adjust to suit yourself. First paragraph: full day’s word count. Wrap up (ending): full day’s word count. Big reveal scene (unmasking the killer): Full day’s word count. Figuring out who the killer is and the pivotal clue to his identity and how to make that work: TWO full day’s word count, and a cookie.

Allowing myself to celebrate these successes motivates me. I work super hard to hit these milestones. And the truth is, if I have the first paragraph, the ending, the big reveal, and the killer/pivotal clue worked out, then the hardest parts of the book are already written! That’s reason to celebrate.

Readers, do you have special ways of celebrating your small (or big) successes along the way? Any tips for how you stay motivated on projects? Share in comments.


Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to Chicks on the Case and never miss a post. Just click the button on the top right side of this page and let the fun begin!

33 thoughts on “Tipping the word count scale in your favor

  1. Some great guidelines here. I’m at that point in my WIP now where I’m trying to figure out those pivotal clues. As soon as I do I’m taking the rest of the day off and having doughnuts for dinner!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. SUCH great advice! I once read that Stephen King can spend months, or even years, crafting the perfect opening sentence. Hey, if it’s good enough for Steve…

    And I totally agree about calibrating those word counts. After I typed The End in book three, I had more than 20,000 words in my “scrap” doc, which basically amounted to filler that I wrote to meet my word count goals. I would have been better served concentrating on those key scenes you mentioned.

    Thanks for sharing this! Just what I need to hear today. Now I’m off to grab a cookie.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I have to give myself a goal of 1500 words a day to force me to stay in the chair. I love checking off a list! When my chapter is finished, if it’s less than 1500 words I change the daily goal because i want Scrivener to show me that green bar! When did i become so needy for Scrivener’s approval?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Libby, writing can be a lonely job. I think we all crave affirmation. When I did NaNoWriMo, I was a badge junkie. I’d fudge the facts just to collect another badge! you go for that green bar — and grab a gluten-free cookie!

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Extra points to Libby for using Scrivener!!! (Sadly, I can’t figure Scrivener out so I have to accomplish the same thing (sort of) with physical sticky notes. I shake up the colors to brighten my day and then I get confused.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Thank you, Vicky–any advice to help withword count goals is much appreciated. (Thank you, Vicky–any advice to…Oh, wait, did I repeat myself? Hey, I added 6 more words. And I am keeping them in, btw.)

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Love this peek inside your process, Vickie!!

    Since my other job means I can only write in blocks of time wherever I can find them rather than regularly every day, I tend not to track my word count. I just write for as much time as I have. Which happily makes it impossible for me to beat myself up for not hitting a word count daily. (Don’t get me wrong though…I beat myself up for other things along the way, ha.)

    I don’t really celebrate anything along the way. What is WRONG with me?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. You have much to celebrate with The Spirit in Question coming out this fall! And I’m in for NaNo in November! Hope you’re in, Cyn, at least for sprints — and cookies.:)

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Mark, actually no writing for me today — I’m road-tripping. I’m celebrating making it to Tennessee! We’re celebrating my mom’s 80th birthday this week!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I tend to run short, too, Ellen! To boost word count, I usually have one suspect I feel needs the case against him/her beefed up a bit. And do sprints — always boosts my word count for the day!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I motivate myself by telling myself that whenever I finish whatever task I don’t want to do then I can spend the rest of the day reading. It also helps if I do those don’t-want-to-do items first thing in the day.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. An interesting take on word count! I liked it. Also amusing about the Weight Watchers meeting. I belonged to WW and would wear my lightest clothes, not eat before weigh-in and then change and eat a sandwich waiting for the meeting to start because I was starving…lol.

    Thank you, Vickie. This was quite enjoyable. Best wishes on your WIP!!

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s