Category Archives: Writing


Google docs word count wizardry

The Preamble

I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year, and I decided to use Google Docs because I can log in from home or work (during my lunch break) or on my phone (while I’m waiting for the kids to get off the school bus.) I’m basically writing the story in chronological order, so each day I add the date and then pick the story up where I left off. But because I’m a bit of a pantser, there are things I find out about the story as I go along which require changes to what I’ve already written.

Now, my general rule for getting through a first draft is to keep moving forward and don’t look back, but sometimes there are little things that I can change quickly or move around, and to do this I switch from Editing mode to Suggesting mode so I can easily keep track of what I change. (Here’s an earlier post where I explain how to switch to suggesting mode in Google Docs — and look! I figured out how to do the first line indent.)

The Problem

Unfortunately, suggestions are ignored when calculating word count.

A Google Doc, in Suggesting mode, with the Tools menu open and Word Count highlighted.

It took a lot of googling (Why are some things so hard to find? Why?) but I eventually stumbled upon a solution.

The Wizardry

Instead of selecting Word Count from the Tools menu directly, choose Review Suggested Edits instead.

A Google Doc, with the Tools menu open and Review Suggested Edits highlighted.

This pops up a little toolbox on the right hand side. Be very, very careful not to click the Accept All or Reject All buttons. Instead change the Show Suggested Edits dropdown to Preview “Accept All”.

A Google Doc, with the Review Suggested Edits toolbox open.

This will show you a version of your document as if all the suggestions had been accepted. Then you can go to Tools -> Word Count and get the right result.

Once you’re done, click the X on the Review Suggested Edits toolbox to the normal version of your doc.

Mihi mai ra. 😉


A new draft of the rugby book

So, last year, I wrote the first draft of a novel about a teenage rugby player. Then it languished for a while, because I realised I was telling the wrong story and I couldn’t figure out what the right one was.

Well, guess what? It’s rugby season again. What better time to have a spectacular idea and write a new version?

I figured out the new approach and this draft just poured out of me. I really like it. I like the character’s arc, and I particularly like the way his relationship with his mother has changed. (She was such a clichéd villain in the old version. She’s much more complicated now.)

I’ve also changed the working title. But that’s a secret for now. 😛

But for interest’s sake. Here are my stats. I peaked at 3,605 words in a day. And that was when the end was in sight, so I just kept pushing on.

I know 42K isn’t enough for a novel, but it’s great for a start. I have a handful of scenes I need to pull from the old version and re-use, and then I can start expanding this first-draft hoariness into something wonderful.

Graph showing daily wordcount for the rugby book plus a running total

Ampersand Prize

Back in September, I entered Grow in the Ampersand Prize, a call for manuscripts by unpublished writers from Hardie Grant Egmont. This is a great opportunity, because winning means publication, which is pretty much every writer’s dream.

They announced the shortlist on Tuesday, and I’m on it!

I’m not normally one for gifs, but I think this deserves one or two. 🙂

At first I was totally cool–who am I kidding? I did a dance around my office. And then the nerves hit and got the shakes. Luckily I had some emergency chocolate to take the edge off.

Check out the full shortlist announcement.

(Too busy to click the link? Here’s the blurb for Grow: When a teenager breaks into his childhood home searching for a connection to his absent dad, he doesn’t expect the new owner to become a father figure – or to fall in love with the man’s niece.)

I’m honoured to be shortlisted, and the other entries sound amazing. I want to read them all.

And it’s a great feeling to have someone say, “Hey, you’ve written a good book.”

It’s going to be a long wait until January, when the winner is announced.