Thursday, April 21, 2011

Most Words Count

The following was first posted on on 12/7/10:

I flipped the cover of my Red n’ Black spiral notebook closed.  It was 2:14 a.m.  I had just written the final words of my novel.

Stunned, I looked around the empty room.  Whom could I tell?  The dogs were asleep in their crates.  Pat was out of town.  My friends in Asia would be awake, but I doubted if any of them would care.

Maybe I’d wait until it was typed before I said anything.  Then I’d know word count.  Then I could casually drop it into conversation:  “You know, I just finished my 47,000-word piece….”

The next day I spent hours keying and, yes, editing my handwritten and often indecipherable text into Word.  I really wanted to know the final word count – 46,607 – almost as much as I wanted to finish the process.  “Back when I wrote my first novel…” has a nice ring to it.

By the following day I wandered around not knowing what to do.  I had promised not to edit my manuscript for at least a month, preferably two.  Maybe I could print a clean copy.  But all my printers had run out of ink printing the draft copies I had been producing daily for the past couple of months.

I dithered.  I dilly-dallied.  I practiced piddling.  I picked up several of the books I’d set aside to read after I finished writing.  Every line I read reminded me of the utterly pedestrian prose I’d just written.  All 46,607 words of it.

(What an odd scorecard anyway.  Does a painter count brushstrokes?  Did Monet ever say, “Look at that top right corner.  It took me 364 strokes to get that color and texture.”?  Did Mozart count notes?  OK, OK.  I do tend to run away with myself when I’m searching.)

After fiddling with my mp3 player I did laundry.  I ate frozen pears.  I surfed the pages for something I couldn’t live without.  I ordered the Waterman pen I promised myself as a reward for finishing the novel.

Then I picked up my Black n’ Red notebook and my Pilot V-Ball pen.  I’m already up to 352 words.

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