Does anyone else struggle sometimes with word count? Or do you not consider word count at all on your initial draft of a novel?

For me it can be a bit of a problem, which is the absolute worst. When I’m in the planning stages for a new novel one of the first things I do is consider the type of story I’m trying to tell and then set a preemptive word count. This is usually between 60-70k words depending on the genre, though I’m generally satisfied with where I’m going once I hit 50k. I guess it’s conditioned in me to try and hit the 50 mark because of all my years spent doing NaNoWriMo, and I know that if I get that far I can add between 5k-10k in editing as I fix scenes or add in things that I think are detrimental to the story.

Lately though I seem to be struggling with my word count, and it’s driving me a bit loopy. The novel I’m currently working on the most is in its final chapter of the first draft, and I’m about 4k below 50,000 words at the moment. I’m doing everything I can to make myself drag it to that finish line at minimum, but I’m not sure I’m going to make it. I had set an original word count at about 60k, so I’m falling WAY short of where I wanted to be on the first draft. It’s a sinking sort of feeling, and it’s really making me second guess what I’m doing here. This book is the fourth, and final, in a series and I’m starting to wonder if it was necessary or not. Am I struggling to get there because the story isn’t one that really needed telling? Am I just not feeling this character in this new setting? I have so many questions, and I hate doubting myself on top of everything else.

As the storyteller I thought it was necessary to wrap up her story, to give her and the people who enjoy reading about her real closure. I wanted to show her struggles now that she’s an adult out in the world on her own, and how she’s coming to terms with finding who she is. But perhaps she was best left behind as the teenage girl she was in the first novel. It’s hard for me to come to grips with that, believe me.

I’ve hit the word count wall before though, it isn’t a new thing. I’ve just never been quite unable to reach where I want to be for that first draft. Rag & Bone hasn’t hit the high count I have set for it either, but that’s because I haven’t edited it yet either. I realize that not all novels are going to be the same length either, that some books just have more to say than others, but I want to at least give them enough depth and bulk to make it worth the readers time and money.

Maybe I’m just overreacting too. That is entirely possible. My anxiety is singing loud and proud lately, and it does often impact what I’m doing and how I’m working.

So let me know what you guys think! Do you struggle with word count? Do you set goals for yourself or do you just write until the draft is finished and then worry about things like word count as you work on your second, third, and fourth drafts? I’m curious to know if anybody else feels this way on the regular or if it’s really just me.

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