Rewarding Words

Cowboy hats

Pathetic though it is, my favorite part of the day is to check my log of words written on my current novel. I don’t count words written on emails, book reviews, blog posts, edits, and miscellaneous sketches that I write in a day. The novel has the priority, and since it’s an enormous undertaking spanning many months, the word count feels reassuring as an unwavering metric.

Why is that pathetic? Because it’s about the least germane measure of accomplishment I could use. Counting words. That’s like counting grains of sand on the beach, or dust bunnies in my house.

How do I know the words I’ve written are good words?  What if they’re inane? What does counting them measure? I should be measuring plot points executed, or character developments achieved, or artistic themes unfurled. Except I don’t know how to measure that stuff. I can measure words and that sustains the illusion that I’m accomplishing something.

I’ve got 56,000 of the little buggers to date. That puts me within about 25,000 of the end, or 10 to 12 chapters. That could be six to eight weeks, which would be a world’s record for me, since the earliest sketches were only made in June. First drafts usually take a year.

What about the larger question of where am I going? That’s where the word count metric is silent. Right now I’m trying to wrap up a middle-section complication that turned out to be way more complicated than I had foreseen. That will take a couple more chapters.

I also have doubts about my characters. I’ve lost track of the main character. I’ve got five significant characters who do all the talking. The two androids and their creator have a lot to say to each other, as you might imagine. Then I have a brother-sister team as reaction characters. I killed off one other central character early on. I don’t seem to have one main character anymore who is burning with desire for X and thwarted by Mr. Antagonist who is finally overcome, ta-da.

But I like the shape this story is taking. I get tired of white hat vs. black hat. That never happens in real life anyway. I’ve got a group of people here trying to do something, and they cooperate, have setbacks, squabble, learn things about each other. I like it, but I fear I’m drifting.

A couple of villains are out there but they’ve been lying low since the early chapters. I guess they should come back soon and get their noses punched.

I think I’m glimpsing the outline of the rewrite already. But that’s premature.  First I’ve got to get to the end. No looking back!


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