“A Murder of Pages”

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.


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