• Adrienne Bell

What Counts As A Word?

It sounds like an easy question, right? But is it? Really?

When you say that you’re going to write hella words next year, exactly which words are you talking about?

First draft words? Revision words? Blog posts and social media rants?

Unfortunately, those aren’t questions I can answer for you. You have to figure out the answer for yourself.

That’s because writing hella words isn’t a contest. There are no set rules. There’s no winning or losing. There are only the commitments you make to yourself.

Those commitments will be easier to meet if you take a little time to think about the kind of writer that you are. I’m not just talking about whether you’re a plotter or a pantser. It’s time to dig a little deeper.

Do you write fast or slow? How much time do you spend on revisions? What does your revision process look like?

Now, my Hella will only be counting first draft words. No words that might be added in revisions. No blog posts. No essays. No shopping lists.

This works for me because I am a slow, first-draft focused writer. My natural writing pace is between 300-500 words an hour. I fiddle with language as I go. No joke—I will rewrite a single sentence two to three times before moving on to the next.

The upside of my process is, while I spend a whole lot of time in the first draft phase, the revision phase is relatively quick and clean. If one of my first drafts ends up being 65k words, chances are the final draft is going to be 65k too.

But that’s my process. Yours will be different.

My podcast partner, Eliza Peake, calls herself a layered writer. She breezes through a basic first draft, and then, during the revision process, makes several passes to layer in description, dialogue, emotional cues, etc. She can add over 20k words during revisions.

You better believe she’s going to want to count those words as Hella words.

My plan wouldn’t work for her. Just like her plan might not work for you. That’s fine. Again, this is about getting you where you want to be.

So, if you’re only going to count first draft words, that’s great.

If you’re tallying up the net gain of words added in revision, that’s great too! (Scrivener would make this so easy, just sayin’)

Or if you’re main commitment is just to keep showing up every damn day in 2020, so you’re going to count every last word that flickers across your computer screen, my hat’s off to you.

Don’t be afraid to do what’s right for you. Ask yourself the hard questions. Trust your answers. Then go forth, and Write Hella Words!

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