The other day I complained about not getting enough words written for my second chapter. My husband, ever practical and always supportive, suggested I not tie myself to word count.
"Just write the story," he said.
Problem is, that's what I did with "Bloodsisters," and wound up spending two years rewriting the book almost from scratch, including six months of adding 10,000 words to beef up the word count to an acceptable length.
Now that I'm a veteran of writing one book, I think I might be more of a planner than a pantser. For "Wanderlust" I came up with the story first, including the minor characters and their backstories and subplots. I used a template to sketch out my beginning, middle, and ending so I don't get off track. And it's working! Now that I know exactly where I need to go - not just with the novel as a whole, but what path I need to take to get there - it's much easier to write with confidence.
But it also means I'm tied to the word count. The WC is how I know how much time to spend in each scene, each chapter, each of the three sections of the plot. Word count helps me pace myself, something I found nearly impossible with "Bloodsisters."
My goal is 5K words per week, and so far I'm doing that. It's not easy, especially with one less daycare day for the baby per week, and I get most of those 5K done on weekends, but a 5K/week word count goal means forcing myself to write through the blocks and keep going, even when I don't fully feel it. Five thousand words a week means my first draft will take six months instead of over a year.
So, word count. Writing by WC means forcing myself to stick to the plot and flesh out details now rather than filling them in later just to bump up my numbers. And that means a better story from the very first draft.