How to Cheat at your Word Count

You know how it is... you've set yourself a goal to write 2,000 words today, and you've barely managed 200. Here's what I did on my work in progress recently to up my word count without actually having to do any of that difficult creative writing stuff.

  • Put in the chapter divisions. "Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three..." That's six words right there.
  • Start each chapter with a meaningful relevant quote. I have used quotes from the scriptures, from philosophers, theologians, saints, writers and presidents. The longer, the better.
  • Hymn or song lyrics. I'm writing a religious book, and at various stages my characters sing hymns. So I put in all the words they were singing. (Although I've since taken them all out again due to copyright issues and the fact that it got boring reading through all six verses.)
  • Book club questions. This is one of the most fun things to do when writing a book. Think about the issues your book addresses, the changes your characters go through or the moral dilemmas raised, and compose questions which whole rooms full of people who have bought your book (I love book clubs) might discuss. It really gives you a great insight into your own book, too.
  • Dedication. "To Mum" might only add two words to your word count, but "To my Mother, [full name plus maiden name], who has always believed in me and supported my writing efforts..." really starts to crank out those essential words. Don't forget to thank her for all those early-hours feeds when you were a baby, too.
  • Include text boxes, footnotes and endnotes. Add footnotes or endnotes for anything you think readers might not fully understand. Then. in Microsoft Word on the Review tab click "Word Count" and tick the box. I just added 600 words to my WIP by doing this.
  • Write your author bio. This is fun to do, too, and since it does appear in the book, I think it's a valid contributor to your word count.
  • Acknowledgements. Think about who you'll thank for their help as you wrote the book. Your patient family, alpha and beta readers, proofreaders, line editors, your editor, agent and publisher, supportive friends, cover illustrator and anyone who helped with the research. (I'm terrified of offending someone by leaving them out, so I offend everyone by not ever having any acknowledgements in my books.)
  • Back cover blurb. Actually I tend to write this first. It gives me an idea of what I'm trying to achieve with the book.
  • If, after all this, you're still just two words shy of your goal, here's what to do. Scroll to the very end of your manuscript and type these two very satisfying words: "The End."

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