To Word Count or Not to Word Count

It was a question to which I’ve always said no. But now that I’m trying out plotting in advance, I want some sort of metric for measuring progress. With Nineveh’s Child mostly done and awaiting release, I wanted to tighten up on the plotting end. I started Nineveh’s Child with a loose outline, but story took over and much of it was done as a seat-of-pants project with restructuring edits done afterwards. I hated this afterwards part, as my beta readers had issues with pacing that could have been addressed in the prewriting plotting stage.


My current new novel is a trilogy of high school superhero books. I wouldn’t let myself start until the first book was completely outlined. I did chapter by chapter, each main event and character beat written out as a long paragraph. Some things changed along the way as is normal. No one wants to write from an outline that stifles creativity. I finished it in three months, 70,000 words. It hasn’t been through beta reads or edits.

But I’m working on the sequel right away. The plot lines are following more of a loose structure, with only a sentence or two describing the event and their role in the narrative. I’ve used some of the points from Tick-Tock Plot by Jacqueline Garlick. At what point does the plot sweep up the protagonist? When does the character hit rock bottom? When should the antagonist show up? I’m laying out the answers to questions like these ahead of time.

plotting cat

And I’m recording word counts. In two weeks, I’ve hit 23,000 words. My rough estimate is this one will be done at 50,000. So far, this plotting scheme is working if I stay on track. The added bonus to a word count is that I now value brief writing times, even just fifteen minutes. I used to measure accomplishment by finishing a chapter or scene. The satisfaction of accomplishing something in such a short time helps bolster the sag of wondering where it’s all going mid-novel when writing it like a pantser.

If you’re writing, do you plot? Do you find word counts helpful? Post your comments below.

Sign up for The Gerhard Gehrke Author’s Newsletter

and get a free copy of

A Beginner’s Guide to Invading Earth

4 thoughts on “To Word Count or Not to Word Count

  1. I’m not much of a plotter, I find that when I do, my writing veers so far off the track the plotting doesn’t work very well! Though I do like to have an ending and know where I’m going on the story. Word counts aren’t that helpful for me, though I do have a goal of the number of chapters and a rough word goal for each chapter.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It has been interesting seeing how the written plotting changes as the writing progresses. I think it’s helped as rough guidelines. I can’t imagine anything too binding as that would kill the creative and fun part of writing.


Leave a Reply

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

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

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s