Word Count. . . Sanity-Robbing Obsession or Necessary Discipline?

Kimberley Woodhouse is a wife, mother, writer, and musician approaching life with a positive outlook despite difficult circumstances. A popular speaker and teacher, she has shared at more than 750 venues around the country. Her previous book, Welcome Home: Our Family’s Journey to Extreme Joy, chronicles her daughter’s extremely rare health issues and how the Woodhouses received an amazing gift through the ABC television program Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Kim and her husband have two children and live in Colorado.

Kayla Woodhouse is a teenage author whose life-altering medical condition (a nerve disorder that prevents the body from regulating its temperature or sensing pain) has not stopped her love for swimming and other adventures. No Safe Haven is her first novel and makes her the youngest published full-length novelist from a royalty-paying publisher.


For those of you who are (or who have hung around) a writer at any point in time, you’ve probably heard the terms “word count.”

“What’s the word count on your latest novel?”

“What does such and such a publisher look for in a word count for such and such a genre?”

What’d you get on you word count today?

Those two little words can send an author into the stratosphere of jubilation when the muse is flowing and words pour onto the page. The same two little words can turn an otherwise sane and happy author into a throw-everything-out-the-window-grab-a-baseball-bat-to-smash-it-all-then-stomp-on-it type person.

Yep. We writers are always striving for that elusive number.

Word Count.

Be it a daily goal or the completion of a manuscript, wordsmiths sure do seem to place a lot of importance on numbers.

And a lot of writers will admit that they hate numbers. Many of them hate math in general. So what is it with this obsession we have with numbers?

After much pondering (not really), I’ve decided to share my thoughts (or lack thereof) on this subject.

1. We need numbers. Life, and thus our stories, would be boring without numbers. (Who would be interested if the reader didn’t know how old our characters are, what year they live in, or how many half-decaf-caramel-lattes they drink each day?)

2. Numbers help you exaggerate in order to make your point more meaningful. (She rewrote the scene for the 5-trillionth time.)

3. Numbers help us with deadlines and parameters. (You’ll never have a publisher ask you to deliver a manuscript of unlimited word count whenever you feel like it.)

So now that I have shared my abundance of wisdom on this matter of numbers, I must get back to my own word count after teaching my kids that “yes, you still have to do math even if you want to be a writer.”


Jenna Tikaani-Gray and her twelve-year-old daughter, Andrea, are on their way home, hoping for a fresh start after a lifetime of medical trials and great sorrow. But when sabotage brings their small plane down, they find themselves fighting for their lives. And they don’t know what’s more dangerous: the weather and terrain of Sultana—one of the most hazardous mountains in Alaska—or the armed men chasing them.

Hardened by the loss in his life, Cole Maddox knows the best path is one he walks alone. No one to care for—or about. That way he can focus on what matters: getting a secret technology safely into the hands of the US Military. But when the plane he’s on with Jenna and Andie crashes, it will take all his skill and strength to get them out alive—and all his determination to stay in his self-imposed solitary confinement.