Ironclad Ways to Increase Your Word Count by Leigh Holland
Hey, I hope everyone celebrating July 4th had a great holiday this year! As much as the kids love fireworks, my favorite part is the grilled meat. The fireworks are beautiful, but I get a bit antsy around so much fire. Honestly, nothing makes me more nervous than seeing my kids run around the backyard near the leafy bushes, imitating the Large Hadron Collider, with five lit sparklers in each hand.
(My husband’s excuse: “We bought too many. I was just trying to get rid of the extras.”)
Well, except maybe for nearing the end of my rough draft and realizing I don’t have anywhere near enough word count.
First, let’s talk about word count. It breaks down as follows:
Short story: Less than 7,500 words
Novelette: Up to 17,500 words
Novella: Up to 40,000 words
Novel: More than 40,000 words.
That being said, most novels run around 70,000 or more. Few publishers will look at anything less than 55,000 words for a novel.
1 page is 500 words single spaced, 250 words double spaced.
2 pages is 1,000 words single spaced, 500 words double spaced.
3 pages is 1,500 words single spaced, 750 words double spaced.
4 pages is 2,000 words single spaced, 1,000 words double spaced.
Other things affect this such as font size, font family, margins, and spacing.
Standard manuscript formatting is Times New Roman, 12 point, 1.5 spacing.
There’s a free online tool to convert words to page count online. It’s found at Words to Pages. Here’s a screenshot:
Don’t panic! First, it’s the rough draft. You’re going to add and subtract from it in ways that will end up making it a tad bit longer in the end.
Here are some tried and true ways to increase word count:
- Check your descriptions. Have you described the surroundings in each setting change? Don’t add it if it doesn’t need it- but if it does, add description.
- Check for missing ingredients. Are there any plot holes to fill? Is dialogue weak in an area it can be strengthened? Is body language and emotional display communicated effectively?
- Add a subplot. If it’s appropriate and ties in with theme and major plot points, add a subplot. It must add to the story and develop the characters, not serve as word count filler.
- Check Pacing. Are there areas where the flow of the work is too fast? If so, you can check for what may be missing here and even out your pacing.
- Check your scenes. Did you leave any events out? Were all events clear in every scene? Do you need to add a scene for plot clarity?
- Make the hero suffer. Mwahahaha! Is he or she suffering enough? Place more obstacles and setbacks in his or her way. This is also a good opportunity to let a supporting character step in and shine.
- Expand on those minor characters. This is especially true when you plan for them to recur in a series. Give them more dialogue. Have one of them behave badly and make up for it. Test the hero (or the villain!).
But, Leigh, I need to know how to increase my daily writing word count.
Here are some ideas:
- No phone. No internet. No TV. No radio. Music without ads is PERFECT.
- Create your own sacred writing space. My family knows when I’m in my space with my headphones on to only bother me for an emergency. Emergencies are: someone is injured, the house is on fire, or dinner is ready. Anything else gets the icy stare of the evil empress!
- Create a time sanctuary for writing. Pick a time frame daily and stick to it. It will be hard at first, but as it becomes habit, you’ll miss it when it doesn’t happen (see:emergencies above).
- Use an app to dictate to. As long as you’re not like me and don’t mind dictating a rough draft, this can increase your word count up to 5,000 words per day in no time. Your rough draft will be very rough, but it will be done faster than my granny can throw together a shotgun wedding.
- Don’t edit as you write. This slows you down. Write now, fix later. Don’t obsess.
- Eat healthy, exercise regularly, do warm ups before sitting to write, and get enough sleep. Take care of you. Love yourself. You deserve it. You’ll write more and better when you’re refreshed.