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The work behind the word count...


People like to ask writers what they have written. Sometimes its a word count they are after. But which words do they mean? For every paragraph or page of words in a completed manuscript, there are often countless others which have been written in the background, especially if you are a world creator. In my own writing, I often have to write background material which I then use to round out my world or to give me, the writer, background understanding. In my next book, there are a lot of scrolls and scraps of writing that are encountered and discovered. Some of them are incomplete but I still need to write out the complete version for it to ring true - and because later in this book or the next one, I may yet need that fragment. Yesterday I spent some time writing out a few of these fragments of ancient writings. Probably only a third of that writing will make it into the finished book, but those words still count in my daily word count.

Many people like to know if a writer has word goals for the day and if they make themselves write those words regardless of whether their work is flowing or not. I do try to set myself targets of words in a day and to stick to it, but sometimes those words are not words that you will find in the finished book, as I have detailed above. If I am in the middle of writing an exciting scene, I would never stop because I had reached my word goal, and equally if I came to a natural end of a subject within the book, I wouldn't make myself write more words. Another part of the writing I do is in writing questions I want to have answered in my book. I write character bios describing how they look and their key character qualities - and if I change their path, those key qualities might change. A character who starts out as warm and sympathetic may become suspicious and sour due to the events in the book and then their character will change too. I write plot-lines and lists of plants and animals in each area, as well as constructing diagrams of social systems and nomenclature. Sometimes when I can't find the words to write, I draw a scribbled little picture of a scene I know is going to be important, even if the right words won't emerge yet.

Often I have to try and make something or try out a skill to feel it for myself. An example of this is this recipe included here for a salve. I wanted to see and to feel how it would be for Talla and Achillea as they made salves. I have also made solid perfumes using the scents for the seven days so that I can smell the scents that might have drifted around the Temple during Talla's time there. None of these involve writing any words down, but all contribute to the final word count. And now I must address myself to my word count for the day!!

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