My white board in the bedroom office. I also use this to write down appointments and dates, not just the word counts. It makes me feel accomplished.

I am counting words again.

It feels like I’m confessing to something. Word counting does seem to get a somewhat bad rap at times. I once read a rant from someone who claimed that word counting was nothing more than ego stroking for a writer, and she made her stand clear that she detested it, especially seeing it when it was on twitter. Meanwhile, another writer said she did the word counting for her fans, so they’d know how close she was to completing her project.

As far as I’m concerned, word counts are only for me. I don’t use them to show off, and I don’t think any readers give a damn.

The early phases of a project are often murky. I have a lot of junk to wade through between the notes to myself and the superfluous scenes I write as I get to know a character’s voice. Sometimes I even write out a scene from another angle, or I may write out part of the story of a minor character just to get a better grasp on a scene that will be a part of the book.

For this reason, I don’t just do daily counts– I do the total project count.

Okay, this must sound confusing. What exactly is the difference, right? I mean, if we’re assuming that I can do basic math, then I can figure out my daily total.

Like anything else, it’s all mental. If I were to start counting how many words I wrote in a day, I think I’d start to worry about what I was writing that day. The extra stuff would probably become a hindrance to me. Eventually, I’d probably start making word count goals and then sitting and staring at a blank screen until I met those goals rather than doing what I do now which is whatever it takes to get the job done.

All that I can think about is the project total. I want to add words to that total, and it doesn’t matter how many. Maybe I only added a hundred words, but that may have been because I worked out an actual plot or I edited a scene based on new information discovered in a free write.

Like any other tool, if this isn’t working for me, I’ll abandon it when it stops being motivational. In the third draft (I think, technically) of the most recent story, I noticed that I wasn’t really adding any words to the project total. On the plus side, I wasn’t losing any words either, but being stagnant wasn’t exactly helping the motivation. So I completely abandoned the word counting and focused on smoothing the story out.

This is just something that has worked and still works for me. Like everything else, it’s just another tool in the box.

Do word counts work for you? How do you handle them?