Creative Juice: How Many Words Does An Author Throw Out When Writing a Book?

November 10, 2014

We all deal a lot with words.

I thought I had written a lot of words in high school. But then I graduated and went to college, and then to seminary. Seminary was very writing heavy. I thought I had exhausted my energy for words. But then I graduated and started writing a blog, just for fun.

Then I wrote a book, Life After Art, which added up to 35,000 words. I probably wrote another 35,000 words in promotional materials.

And now I’m working on getting Plus or Minus to press. At about 55,000 words, it’s the most intensive collection of words I have ever shared.

I asked one of my high school seniors about their thesis papers, the pinnacle of their high school career. The word count on those is roughly 7,000 words. And to them, that seems insurmountable.

With Plus or Minus, I had to write and then discard 25,000 words. Equal to two-thirds of my first book, had to end up on the cutting room floor. And it has been painful. This weekend has been by far the biggest single cut, perhaps 10,000 words. I loved them all and put my heart into them.

It’s funny how when you are in high school, 7,000 seems like a big number. They spend all year crafting those words. But as I have grown as a person and a writer, I have stopped placing so much value on the number of my words as the worth of my words. We share careless little words all the time. We tweet and post little sentences that float to other peoples’ screen and then disappear. But how many of our words are truly important? How many of them are worthy?

I had to write 75,000 words in order to find 55,000 that I could keep.

In all creative pursuits, we cannot be married to everything we make. We cannot insist that everything we write be read. We have to hold our words lightly. We have to let some fall to the floor.


We do this so that the words we share will be truly worthy of being heard.