How to (Mathematically) Add Words to Your Book


A few posts back, I briefly mentioned that I finished the first draft of my WIP, Awaken, in four days. Story time!
At the beginning of March I received a text from the family I work for letting me know that they wouldn't be needing my help at all for the week and to enjoy the week off. At the time, I was working on chapter three-ish of Awaken. So when I got that text and realized I now had an empty week ahead of me, a crazy thought popped into my head:

I should write my whole book in five days.

I know, I know. It was a crazy thought. I once wrote Unperfected in eight days and even that seemed insanely hard and impossible at the time. But five days? CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.
And I swear, most of that week is a blur because I seriously spent every single day writing. My days looked something like this:

9 AM: Wake up
9:30: Grab coffee and breakfast
10: Write
11: Write
12: Lunch
1: Write
2: Write
3: Write
4: Write
5: Write
6: Dinner
7: Write--

Allll the way until 1 or 2 in the morning. Looking back on it now, I'm kind of shocked that I didn't go crazy. Usually writing is a chore for me, but with this book it's been nothing but pure exhilaration.
And on March 8th, this happened:


I'm still slightly shocked. HOWEVER, you may notice the very important bit that says "20K under my target word count." 
...Yeeeeaaah.
Which brings us to today's post.
The first draft of Unperfected was a whopping 113,000 words, so word count has never been a problem for me until Awaken. Obviously, the fact that I scraped the very first draft together in four days is the main reason. But another is because a lot of the middle of the book is mostly dialogue because the characters are walking through total darkness, so there's really nothing around them to describe.
Luckily, though, there's a science to adding words to your book. And when I say science, I mean math!

Step 1: Calculate minimum # of words per chapter.

Say you want to write a 70,000 word book, and you have 40 chapters outlined. That's 70,000/40, which is 1,750 words per chapter, meaning the minimum number of words you can have per chapter in order to reach your goal is 1,750.
Of course, not every chapter is going to be the same length. Some will be longer and some will be shorter. Having the minimum # of words per chapter is just good to keep in mind because it gives you an idea of what chapter length is too short and what is too long. It's a happy medium that you know will get you to your goal.

Step 2: Separate your chapters

Take each chapter and put them into separate word files. This allows you to see the word count of each chapter individually, and it also keeps things a little more organized. I like to take all of my chapters and split them into individual word docs, label them, and put them in their own folder on my desktop.



Step 3: Add words to each chapter until they meet the minimum # of words per chapter. (EX. 1750)


Man, that sounds easy, doesn't it? Unfortunately, it's not. This is the part where you really have to work, because sometimes adding words is hard. Sometimes it feels like there's nothing else to say. When this happens, read through your chapter to see if there are any places that could use more description. Are there any sentences you could rewrite? Are there any new pieces of dialogue you could add in?
As I said before, not every chapter is going to be the same length. If you can't reach your minimum # of words (EX. 1750) don't stress just yet. Odds are, some of your chapters are/will be longer than the minimum and will make up for it.

Step 4 (if necessary): Add more chapters

Currently, Awaken is 37,675 words, and my goal is 60K. That means I need to write 22,325 more words in order to meet my goal. However, there are only 23 chapters total--that's over 2600 words per chapter. Those are long chapters!
A lot of my current chapters range from 1500-2000 words, so 2600 feels like a lot. But, if I add more chapters, that will lessen the minimum # of words I need for each chapter.
Odds are if you're struggling with reaching your target word count, there is more you can add to your story--even if you don't know what to add yet. I let my cousin take a look at this short draft of Awaken, and she gave me a few ideas for some extra scenes and chapters I could add in. While all in all I still need to write 20K no matter how I split it up, sometimes adding more chapters to make your minimum # of words smaller tricks your brain into thinking you have less work to do. Test things out and see how they work for you!


Although it may feel impossible, adding words to your draft doesn't have to be as hard as you think. Just organize and do the math, and you'll be right on track to reach your target word count!

For any of you local Michiganders out there, I will be attending the Michigan Writing Workshop on Saturday and would love to meet you! Registration is still open so grab your spot while you can! If you aren't MI local, I will be tweeting throughout the day, so make sure to head over and follow me on Twitter!
Also, keep an eye out for Tuesday's post where I'll be discussing my experience at the conference. I hope you all have a great rest of you Thursday!

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