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A quick question for writers

I mentioned earlier that I have been using the equivalent of MS Word's wordcount while writing, and that this has not perhaps been very smart. I know that we're all looking at the lengths of our various books, and I was wondering: How do you keep track of wordcount while writing? Because I had an extra 45K words and an extra 25K words when looking at the page runoffs on the two books I did write in Scrivener, and this was ... unfortunate. And I would like not to repeat it if I can*.

If you need to turn in a 100k manuscript--or a manuscript of a specific maximum length--do you check the runoff count as part of your daily writing, do you format it in manuscript format so you write -to- a runoff count?

ETA: * I am aware that there might be a bit of gentle mockery at this point


( 28 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 29th, 2009 07:30 am (UTC)
I write in manuscript format, where for me 'manuscript format' is 12pt Courier set to exact 25pt spacing with .3" tabs and 1" margins all around. And then I do this slightly weird thing for wordcount: I use MS Word's wordcount for my goal for the length of the book, so if it's 110K, I want MSW to say 110K. That's slightly longer than 440 pages, though, and almost all the time the result is that I actually come in just about dead on the page count expected. I don't think I've ever had a book come out more than 5K more or less than anticipated. Certainly not more than 10K.

No idea if that's helpful, but that's what I do. :)
Apr. 29th, 2009 07:54 am (UTC)
I don't write in manuscript format -- when word processing I use my own style sheet and reset the paragraph styles to manuscript format only when I'm ready to submit: double-spaced courier is a really poor working format for editing on-screen. But I prefer to write original copy using a text editor.

I don't (and never have) used runoff count; I go by what the word processor says the word count is (or preferably by the wc(1) algorithm if I'm working in vi).

In general, the runoff count and lexical word count of my fiction agree within a couple of percent. Which is probably a stylistic thing.
Apr. 29th, 2009 08:05 am (UTC)
1st draft -- whatever font I want

For 2nd draft -- I use the ms format to make sure I stay within the proper word count limit.
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 29th, 2009 04:51 pm (UTC)
*wry g*

It is true that I ended up ignoring word count totals just to finish the last book, because by that time I was so stressed at how long it was I was almost afraid to add words. Which, of course, made finishing anything a touch more difficult.
Apr. 29th, 2009 09:32 am (UTC)
I check wordcount at the end of the day and keep a running total in a notebook. Full, usually, of arithmetical errors. I am such a luddite. Sigh.
Apr. 29th, 2009 09:51 am (UTC)
I don't use Word. I use a program called Atlantis and I use the word count from it. It seems more accurate than Word and keeps note of the word count in the bottom bar of the program, so I only have to check it when I want to know the count of a specific section.

I have to admit, I don't know what a runoff is in regards to word counts. When done with the piece, I just count the whole thing. If I need to make cuts, I start looking for places to make those cuts until the count is where I need it. Wish I wrote more cleanly than that to begin with, but I'm not so blessed. It usually takes at least 4 or 5 revisions to get where it needs to be and as good as it can be.

Edited at 2009-04-29 09:55 am (UTC)
Apr. 29th, 2009 04:53 pm (UTC)
The runoff count (or castoff count, as it's sometimes called) is based on 12 pt. courier (or 10 pt - but it has to be a mono-space font), double spaced, one inch margins.

This is used to determine things like the cost of typesetting, and it gives a rough estimate of typeset pages, which you can then estimate printing costs for a book.
Apr. 29th, 2009 11:46 am (UTC)
I use Word's wordcount, and have never really worried about it. I usually aim for around 95,000 to 100,000 words. Five books in, it's never been an issue so far.
Apr. 30th, 2009 07:21 pm (UTC)
Me too. I suspect that's because we both hit around 100,000 words and no one's going to complain about that. At 300K, I suspect it gets trickier...
Apr. 29th, 2009 01:34 pm (UTC)
I place it in a manuscript format that gives me 250 words per page. It's actually 252 if I don't round down, but it's close enough. So, 400 pages equals 100,000 words.
Apr. 29th, 2009 03:43 pm (UTC)
Me, too. 25 words per page, average 1o words per line. Page count is so much easier for me to aim for.
(no subject) - deborahjross - Apr. 29th, 2009 03:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - msagara - Apr. 29th, 2009 05:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 29th, 2009 01:35 pm (UTC)
I tend to only look at the MS thing for comparison purposes, but tend not to do wordcount at all unless asked. (I have very bad number dyslexia, and have trouble making large numbers meaningful. Page count works better for me.)
Apr. 29th, 2009 02:24 pm (UTC)
I use my word-processor's wordcount, which in my case is an ascii editor called TextPad. (When submission time comes, I decant into a manuscript-formatted template in FrameMaker. I try to avoid Word if at all possible.)

Apr. 29th, 2009 02:37 pm (UTC)
Speaking in my Text Designer (that is, the person who designs and typesets the interior of the book) guise:

The absolute wordcount is not relevant. If you are a writer who uses a lot of long paragraphs, you will pack more words onto a single typeset page. If, however, you tend toward lots of dialogue, your typeset pages will have a lot of white space, and not very many words per page.

There are other factors as well: using fewer, longer chapters takes less room than many little chapters (all that white space at the beginning and end, you see).

The best approach a writer can take is to use SMF. 12pt courier, double spaced, 1" margins all around. Then you count each manuscript page as 250 words, (regardless of how many words actually are on an individual page).

So if you need to turn in a 100K manuscript, you need 400 manuscript pages in standard format. If you tend to long paragraphs and not so much dialogue, you can probably run past that a little bit.

Also, be sure not to suppress widows and orphans. Again, depending on your stylistic quirks, that might make your manuscript appear longer than it really is.
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 29th, 2009 05:51 pm (UTC)
Maybe the publishers they deal with don't care, now.

I know that authors do turn in books in non-traditional formats to even my publishers; I know at least DAW will then have to send that manuscript for castoff counting -- so to the publisher, the castoff counts appear to still be used.

But maybe that differs from publisher to publisher, and even from large publisher to large publisher. I know that DAW, and therefore by extension Ace and Roc, use the castoff counts for cost approximations.
Apr. 29th, 2009 07:31 pm (UTC)
It's the difference between acquisitions and production.

At the acquisitions stage, the editors and agents know the manuscript isn't final. It will be edited and rewritten. It just needs to be in the ballpark at this stage, so the MSWord count is fine.

By the time the book is headed to production, however, they want a better idea of how long the book is going to be so there are no surprises on the P&L.
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 29th, 2009 04:56 pm (UTC)
Yes, this is exactly the problem :).

I am not a Scrivener power user (as must be obvious), but what I like about it is the ability to keep multiple versions of chapters in one place, with the current being the top level, and any cuts or deletions being nested. I don't actually do it often, but it's a lot easier to organize this way.

So yes, what I wanted to do was to have some idea of page count. Can I use the export format to get the page count, or would I have to write it in that font and widen the window for proper line sizing, do you know?
Apr. 29th, 2009 10:12 pm (UTC)
Go to the options tab in there and make sure the lines per page is at 25. Give it a second to recount, and that will give you how many SMF pages on the printed pages line. 400 will be where you aim.

Actually, the default setting of 54 lines per page with 12 pt. courier counts SMF pages (the count will be low because it doesn't seem to pick up the page-break at end of chapter). Or rather, it counts the 24 pt SMF page. (I tried it with 25, and with 54, and exported to SMF; the 54 came within 2 pages of the exported manuscript).

Thank you very much for this!
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 29th, 2009 10:15 pm (UTC)
Word. (As in, what you said.)
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 29th, 2009 05:04 pm (UTC)
In the current publishing clime, shorter books are preferable. Longer books cost more to produce for a variety of reasons.

Let's take a hypothetical: Publisher A wants a maximum, absolute maximum of 300k words. These would be runoff or castoff pages, not MS word.

If I use MS Word counts, and I finish the book at 300k by MS Word, I may think I have managed to squeak under the limit. This limit would in theory be 1200 pages in manuscript format.

But when I format the novel word says is 300k words for actual submission, my page count will be 1375 pages. Which means I will have gone over the acceptable upper limit by 175 pages. Which means in theory that I have to lose 175 of those manuscript pages to stay within the upper limit.

Does that make more sense?

If I'm writing 100k MS Word wordcount words, and the upper limit is 120k words, there shouldn't be a problem. It's when I'm writing 125k wordcount words, and the upper limit is 125k castoff words that I'm suddenly looking at having to lose 100 pages.

So what I'm trying to do is figure out what the rough castoff count is as I'm writing, and at the moment, a program which does a huge number of things I really, really value doesn't page count that way.
Apr. 29th, 2009 05:40 pm (UTC)
It's extremely heartening that someone further along than me has these same questions. Well. Sort of. Heartening, in a disheartening way. :)

Apr. 29th, 2009 05:43 pm (UTC)
I was told there would be no MATH!!!
Apr. 29th, 2009 08:27 pm (UTC)

Although it was painful (because I have not learned in all these years not to read LJ while drinking coffee or tea), I still think it's funny :D
Apr. 29th, 2009 06:35 pm (UTC)
Isn't there a character-based method of figuring out the runoff count? My memory is vague here, but it's something like 6 characters (including spaces) = 1 average word. That sort of thing would be pretty easy for a computer to do on the fly, and Keith might be willing to add such a feature to Scrivener 2 if you mention it in the feedback forum.
Apr. 29th, 2009 09:23 pm (UTC)
MSWord will squeeze extra lines on the page depending on whether you set the line spacing for "double" (25 lines) or "exactly 24 points" (27 lines).

And it's my experience so far that I'm not expected to worry about the number of pages. Maybe their expectations are extraordinarily low. :)

Still, I write in manuscript format (or what I use for my manuscripts): Dark Courier, 12 pt, half-inch para indents, exactly 24 points (to save paper, 'natch), so I think it gets pretty close.

Finally, on Word for Mac, the word count appears at the bottom of the window automatically... until I hit 100K, when it disappears. I know when I can't see how many words I've done it's time to wrap wrap wrap it up!
( 28 comments — Leave a comment )