I know they don’t matter. But it doesn’t stop me from obsessively watching them like they’re stock prices.
The first novel I ever finished (several years ago) wasn’t really a novel. I think it came to about thirty-five thousand words, which I found disappointing. I emailed it to a friend for feedback, and used some of his suggestions to add stuff to the story. I managed to bump it up to a heftier 47,000 words, but I also became very dissatisfied with it.
My friend said, “I wish you gave more backstory on the main character.” So I wrote in a serious of dream flashbacks to his haunted past and came up with something that felt totally cheap and cliché and uninspired. But I almost hit fifty thousand, so it’s all good, right?
I guess I’ve become more prolific. My first Amazon-published novel is just over 70k,The New Devil recently passed 85k and my first draft of a novel I’m working on just hit 95k. But I hope part of maturing as a writer is coming to the realization that more words can just mean more shit you don’t actually need. I already know I’ll need to amputate a few thousand words from chapter one of my novel, for example. It’s confusing, it doesn’t serve the plot, and there’s no reason all that exposition can’t be gently laced across the next few chapters in bite-sized, digestible pieces.
The old adage about quality instead of quantity is something everyone knows, but I guess it took me a while to get the hang of applying it to my work. I’m not saying that everything I write has the perfect pacing without any filler whatsoever, of course…but I think I’m moving in the right direction.
The short story I’m also working on is clocking in just under 4k. As I’m revising, I’m constantly resisting the urge to add unnecessary stuff just to bump the first digit up from a 3 to a 4. I’m still learning. Maybe I’ll get there one day.