Sixty-Thousand Words and Counting

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What's in a goal?

It's hard to predict how many words my novel will be when I've completed the first draft.

Before I began writing my novel, I made a rough plan. I started a little progress counter and set "complete" to be 100K words—that's about the average adult novel length. There are massive variations by subgenre, author, and other factors, though. I've passed 50K a week or so ago, ran a few quick calculations, and saw that I could end up with around 150K words if I keep up my current chapter length. So, I've adjusted what "complete" means to be 150K words instead. I have some upcoming chapters that might be very short, so if I see a new pattern emerge, I will adjust my goal down.

Here's a progress bar in the style of old-school video games.

▮▮▮▮▮▮▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯▯ 40%

Screenshot of the old Castlevania game on the Nintendo Entertainment System
You can do it, Simon. Just watch out for Medusa heads.

But, what's the real goal here? It's not word count. I could copy and paste the same word 150,000 times, and then, voila, I'm "done." Word count is a fun metric to check in on every once in a while. But, what I really want is to tell a compelling story. When I'm satisfied that I've done that, then I will have accomplished my actual goal.

What's new since last week?

  • Puns can be difficult live, in-person, on the spot. But, when you have all the time in the world to put them in the written words, they're e̶a̶s̶i̶e̶r̶ harder. Why are they more difficult? Because you have all the time in the world to think about how it's not perfect, not funny enough, or unoriginal. And, while a pun doesn't necessarily have to be original, it does have to at least feel punny. But, the more you stare at it, the less funny it becomes.
  • I named a new character—she plays a brief but essential role. Like all of the names in my novel, I took time and care in selecting it.
  • I've decided that I love to find that my characters have developed in ways I never imagined when I began. They take on a life of their own, and after a while, it becomes simple to imagine what they would or would not do in any given situation. When their ambitions, goals, and motivations become so clear, they take on a personality of their own and are a joy to write—this is true even for characters I would hate to know in real life.