Writing Books: The Crazy Obsession of Words PER MINUTE (we are not secretaries!)

Hello everybody and firstly let me wish you all a very Happy New Year.

O.K., lets get down to the reason for the title of this particular new post.

As an author, I am both amazed and rather irritated at the unhealthy (and misleading) obsession with word counting.

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What exactly do I mean? I hear you saying that it’s perfectly reasonable for new authors to ask what the average (or expected) length for their type of book for their genre should be. I agree entirely. These are perfectly sensible and intelligent questions.

What I am actually referring to is the number of people who fixate on how many ‘words per minute’ or ‘words per day’ etc they write. Most of the time, novels by first time authors with an enormous word count are likely to be either full of extensive exposition or other unnecessary text. Now don’t get me wrong, their books may well be good (in most part) but I get a clear sense that many state their enormous word count figures as something to boast about rather than feel ashamed of.

For myself, I find it difficult to write a page a day that I am satisfied with. I am able to write at great speed but what comes out is often poorly crafted. I edit and re-edit my text before I feel satisfied enough to move on. I don’t waste words or use additional ones just for the sake of it. Ernest Hemingway once said that all he did was ‘sit at a typewriter and bleed’. His books are so concise, so perfectly crafted. No extraneous text or verbose prose. It was almost surgically concise but with lots of soul. I just wish that more blogs concentrated on quality rather than quantity and guided new authors along that path. There’s nothing worse than boring readers with spaghetti text now is there?

Thomas Mann made this point very succinctly:

A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people”.
Essays of Three Decades (1942)

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