Word Count Vs. Word Perfect by Katy Lee

Hello all, Katy Lee here. I wish I could say I was a natural speed writer, but alas, I cannot.typer Actually, though, I’m okay with that because for me it’s more important to know I have a strong, healthy story concept that will hold its weight during the writing process and not get shelved halfway through. The story may not get written lightning fast, but it WILL get written.

Are you with me?

Great, because I’m about to bring up the concept of plotting. Now don’t runaway yet! Here me out. I used to be a pantser, thinking all I needed was inspiration, creative juices, and a hero/heroine that would tell me their story along the way. Well, that worked for the first book, but when I was presented with an opportunity to pitch to a big publisher, I knew I couldn’t let it pass me by—even if the story didn’t exist yet. (Shhh…don’t tell anyone) But it was because the story wasn’t written that I knew I didn’t have all the time in the world to get the word count on the page this time around. This time, I only had eight weeks to complete it. It was time to get serious as a professional writer.

Now this doesn’t mean writing had to become so strict that I didn’t enjoy the creative process anymore. I may plot out the skeleton form of my story with all its plot turns and dark moments, and I may write the opening and closing scenes before I begin, but I’m open to surprises along the way to keep it fun, too.

E.L. Doctorow once said plotting is like “driving a car at night, when you can’t see beyond the headlights but somehow you get through the night.” When I’m plotting, I plot ahead only as far as the “headlights” shine. Typically, about three scenes in advance. All my turning points guide me along the way, but I still have flexibility for when those delightful surprises pop up. Plus, I know I’m not leading my characters off a cliff. But wait, actually, that’s not a bad idea. I could use that. (Just kidding…sort of.)

Anyway, the point is you will stay on track, and because you know what’s coming, your excitement to get your characters to those moments—so they can become larger-than-life and shine for your readers, too—pushes you like no other motivation to type through to The End.the end

Now plotting has not made me type faster, as in words per minute, but I don’t get “slowed up” as much as I used to. I don’t have long stretches of wasted time because of not having a clue where the story is going. Now when I start a story, I feel very confident that it will be completed in a professional amount of time.

Of course, there is a downside to all of this. It might mean more book contracts each year, and editors calling when they need a special project in a pinch. But, I’ll let you make that call for yourself.

The Unlocked Secret: Make those words count. It’s good to have a daily word count, but wouldn’t it be grand if those words on the page were word perfect right from the start? Are you still with me?


8 thoughts on “Word Count Vs. Word Perfect by Katy Lee”

  1. Great blog, Katy. I’m working on plotting right now, filling out sheets, asking myself questions. It’s easier to do all this before you begin, although I’ll admit I’m already 10,000 or so words in. I like the E.L. Doctorow quote about plotting….it’s so true. I’ve been a pantser, then a plotter. I like being a plotter better since I think it leads to a stronger book with a deeper conflict, better character motivations and tighter scenes. I may not always know exactly where I’m going, but I feel working on the plot helps bring everything together.

  2. I couldn’t agree with you more. I used to pants and never finished books. As soon as I started plotting, everything changed. I think there is a common misconception that if you plot, that somehow it kills creativity. I would argue that nothing slows you down more (and causes anxiety) than getting halfway through a story and realizing you have no idea what happens next or you’ve painted your characters into corners. And I completely agree that spending that time up front pays off in dividends when it’s time to writer. Great post!

  3. Katy, excellent post. At the beginning, not knowing anything about writing, I outlined. It was not a good one, but it gave me a start. So, not only did I outline first, but then when I began to learn about writing, I re-outlined, then when my writing got stronger, I re-re-outlined. Now, I look to my outline to write my scenes. The outline gives order, but more, it reminds me what scenes are needed to make the story work.

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