Pump Up the Count, Pump it Up

While your fingers’ stumping
And the wordcount’s pumping
Look ahead, the story’s jumping
(with apologies to Technotronic)

One way to pump up word count during National Novel Writing Month, a way to reach the 50,000 word goal during the month of November, is to describe every freaking thing in every freaking scene. You’ll end up with dense, plot-stifling detail that has to be waded through with a machete, but you can wield that machete later on when you’re in editing mode. (For an example, see this post.) During November, you’ve got to be in word pumping mode.

Another way people use to pump up wordcount, one I will never stoop to, is . . . dare I say it . . . plagiarism.

  • In 1978, Alex Hailey settled a lawsuit for $650,000, admitting that, somehow, passages from another writer’s work (The African by Harold Courlander) had unintentionally turned up in Roots.
  • In 1997, romance writer Janet Dailey admitted to plagiarizing fellow romance writer Nora Roberts.
  • In 2002, a summary judgement was issued against an American writer, Nancy Stouffer, who had claimed that J.K. Rowling had stolen names and plot details from her own vanity-published book, The Legend of Rah.
  • Kurt Vonnegut once said he ripped off the plot for Player Piano from Brave New World, and that Huxley, in turn, ripped off his plot from Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We. (Not really plagiarism, but it allows me to use the following oft-quoted phrase.)

And so it goes.

The reason I bring up this point is something that struck me the other day. I was wandering through the blog of one of my favorite SF writers and came across a comment posted by one of the blog’s readers. The commenter boasted of an incredibly high word count for the month of September, among other things. He’s a professor, a math geek (he’s been called an ubergeek), and has contributed to quite a number of SF non-fiction studies. I haven’t been able to find much fiction he’s had published, though there is some, apparently. Anyway, I did a little digging on him, jealous of his September fiction output. Found his Facebook page. Found a recent fiction post, a day where he boasted an output of 2,600 words, 600 words over his daily goal. The section read like a future war scene, set in a remote Chinese town. The description was well-done. In a following comment, he posted the source article he used as research for that day’s fiction writing.

He copied whole sections of the article word-for-word. Well, that’s one way to pump up your daily wordcount.

Admittedly, it’s a useful way to meet your daily goal and to get research into your story. Is it plagiarism? Not in the way he’s using it, I think. He’s pumping out first-draft material which, I assume, he’ll change in a second draft.

I can’t use this method because I know I wouldn’t be able to rely on my memory to separate the words I wrote from the words I borrowed.


About Bruce Diamond

Despicably proud old man. Text-extruding asshole (thank you, John Scalzi) with a skewed vision on life, pop culture, writing and general assholiness. Not a scholar, not a gentleman, not Martin or Lewis. But still trying to make life fun and funny.
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