Or, Counting Words Like a Pro
It is both aggravating and gratifying to know how agents/editors/publishers actually count words in a manuscript. It’s not by the “word count” feature in your word processing program but a formula: number of formatted pages x 250 words per page. The formatting is simple: 12 point Courier, 1 inch margins. That estimate actually makes my word counts go up about 10% (ha! I can shave Stephen King’s suggested 10% off just by running a program word count instead of a formula count!), which is fine…I have worried a little bit about getting to the “properly salable” length of 100,000 when based on my outline my novel will clock in around 70-75,000. But with the formula it goes up to 80k, and comfortably within the wiggle room of that 80-100K target length.
The only problem? I hate the way Courier looks. I literally cannot stand to read it on screen. I need my Garamond or my Harrington or my Times New Roman. And I also really hate double-spaced fonts, because they don’t look like stuff looks in a book, which is the look I like to read. One and a half spacing I can handle, but there’s really no point to that, is there, when it wouldn’t accurately count even Times New Roman pages by the formula.
The reason this is a problem is because it means I won’t really know where I am with the word count unless I reformat the document. This is not aggravating because I am a slave to word counts…the story’s going to be as long as it’s going to be, period. It’s just that I am a bit of a Type A, and I like to know where I stand on projects. I get a great deal of satisfaction out of meeting certain goals, such as 1/10th of the way finished, 1/4th of the way finished, etc. Hard to do that when all I have to go by is a squishy outline and a word count that is lowballing my progress.