Posted by: nancyisanders | May 31, 2011

Deadline Digest: Word Count

Today I finished fact checking for the majority of my manuscript. And finally…I went in and checked my word count.

It was a little tricky checking my word count. Here’s why.

First I had to save my manuscript with all my footnotes documenting my research sources and all my notes to myself in red. All these footnotes WILL NOT be submitted in the manuscript, but I need a file with them all intact.

Then I had to delete all those footnotes and personal notes and save it as another file. This new file is the file that will be submitted to the editor.

Then I had to delete all the art notes and editor notes that I have in [brackets] that WILL be submitted in the manuscript. So I saved this as a separate file as well.

And THEN I could calculate my total word count.

Okay, take a deep breath. I had overshot my word count by a hefty 9,000 words. Ouch. I had been trying to keep it close, but with those art notes and footnotes in the way, it was just a guesstimate.

So then I spent the rest of the day at the chopping block.

First I chopped out huge chunks of text. But I didn’t just press delete and watch all that work disappear into cyberspace! Oh no! I was prepared for this big moment. Instead, I pasted each chunk onto a website I’m designing to upload for the book when it’s released. And all this extra text gave me some great content for the website as supplemental material for teachers to use or kids to read.

And then, I went chapter by chapter and line by line and sentence by sentence and tried to cut 1-5 words from every sentence. That took me hours and hours and hours. I went frontwards and backwards and here and there and everywhere.

I chopped off 5,000 words. Whew!

So then, at the very end of the day, I pulled out my contract and read it again. I realized I need to do a couple of things the contract requires before I submit my manuscript, too.

So I e-mailed my editor and told him I was 4,000 words over my limit. I asked him if he wanted me to keep on chopping or if he wanted to see it at its current length so he could recommend where I chop instead.

And I also asked him about one of the clauses on my contract. It says I have to submit 2 hard copies of the manuscript along with a disc. Since my manuscript is nearly 225 pages long, that’s 450 pages! Since the age of computer changes so rapidly, I just wanted to double check that this information is still accurate before I print out 450 pages worth of ink and paper and then pay shipping costs to mail it. Lots of times, a publisher’s needs change but those changes aren’t always reflected in the contract, so I just wanted to make sure.

I’ll let you know what he says when he gets back to me!


  1. I love that you’re so willing to share the whole process of research, writing, editing, chopping and the ups/downs of it all. Looking back and looking forward was a really good post and I’ve begun to delve more seriously into my processes and evaluating the positive and negatives from them. Keep up the good work!

    • Oh, I’m so glad these posts are so helpful for you, Annalisa! And thanks for the encouragement! -Nancy

  2. I too really appreciate getting an inside view of the process. It is interesting and inspiring. I’m curious, have you had any of your “writing for personal fulfillment” works published?

    • That’s an interesting question, Kathy! Off the top of my head, no, I don’t think I’ve ever had a manuscript that I wrote first accepted by a publisher. But on the other hand, now I sometimes contact publishers with ideas that I want to write for personal fulfillment and then sign the contract to write the book. That’s how it is with my current Civil War deadline. -Nancy

      • That’s very cool. It sounds like your pyramid is overlapping!

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