Word Count

This is an issue that haunts most aspiring writers. Most word processors are equipped with a word count feature, but this is NOT the way to do it. Even though using this feature will give you the actual word count used, the printing industry works it out differently.

If you look at any two pages in a novel and then counted the actual words on those pages, you’d get a varying answer. It stands to reason that most pages will be different so the printing industry uses a formula to work out the average word count per page.

There are many formulas to be found but I’m only going to mention two. These are the two I’ve seen used the most and once you decide which formula you are going to use, whether it is one of the following or another, stick to it and stop worrying about word count.

Before I go into the formulas themselves, the page setup is an important factor. Most editors want us to use a standard size paper: in USA this would be 8 1/2 inch x 11 inch; in other parts of the world it is 210mm x 297mm (commonly known as A4). We should also use a non proportional type face such as courier new in size 12 font, as it’s easier on the eyes when reading. The margins should be at least 1 inch on all sides.

I actually used both of these methods on my own work and was amazed that they gave me the same answer, so I can safely say that I write 450 words per page (single spaced) but remember to change your manuscript to double spacing before you send it out.

Formula 1
Take a sheet from your manuscript that is quite full of typing. Don’t use a sheet with a lot of dialogue. Count the number of letters, including spaces and any punctuation marks, across one line of text. Say you get 60. Divide this by 6 and the answer is the number of words per line, which is 10 in this case.

Now count the number of lines that can be typed on down the page. Remember to count the blank line between paragraphs. Say you get 45 lines for single spacing. You multiply 45 by 10 and this gives you the number of words per page (in this instance 450 words).

Then you multiply the words per page (450) by the number of pages for the whole manuscript and this is our total word count.

So if I have 250 pages to my manuscript, this means that my total word count is 112,500 words.

Formula 2
The other method is to count the number of words in 10 lines (say you get 100) and divide the total number of words by 10, which means you have a line word count of 10.

Count the lines on an average page (again, say you get 45). Multiply the total number of lines (45) for the sample full page by the approximate word count for one line (10). This gives you the word count for one page, which in this instance is 450.

Then multiply this total count for the words on one page (450) by the total number of pages (our example is 250) in your manuscript. This is the total length of your manuscript in words would then be 112,500.


  • Always use single spacing to work out your word count but remember to change to double spacing before sending your manuscript to an editor.
  • Even if there is only three lines of type on a page, the page is still considered to have a word count of 450 words because in the printing industry the area used is what matters not the actual number of words.
  • Be sure to check with the editor or on their website, before sending your manuscript to them, to find out if they have a preferred method of working out the word count because some publishers do.

Punctuation in Dialogue

This is an area I know a lot of people have difficulties with. I’ve seen a lot of mistakes made where writers are not sure where to put a comma or full stop. Here is an example of the correct way to use them:

“I meet a wizard today,” Sam announced.

“Sam, you’re nuts!” Peter replied. “Wizards don’t exist.”

“They do,” Sam insisted, “because I meet one today.”

With the first piece of dialogue, some people make the mistake of placing a full stop after the word “today” (ie “I meet a wizard today.” Sam announced.), which is wrong. The dialogue tag is part of the overall sentence.

In the second set there are two complete sentences so a full stop is placed at the end of the dialogue tag. Also, when using a name or another word like – hey, oh, well, boy – you should always place a comma after that word. A good way to test this out is to read the sentence without the word, if it makes sense without it use a comma – if it doesn’t make sense then a comma is not required.

With the last line, the dialogue tag is placed in the middle of a complete sentence so you should place a comma after the first part – the word “do” in this case – and at the end of the dialogue tag as shown.

Oh, one more thing, ALWAYS start a new line for each person who speaks. ALWAYS!


tutThe pharaohs of ancient Egypt had immense power and wealth, and great responsibilites. He made offerings to gain the gods’ favour, he performed ceremonies to ensure that the land would be fertile, and he had a duty to build monuments which would please the gods. He made the laws, and was also commander-in-chief of the army. His most important role was to maintain harmony and order and hold the regions of Upper and Lower Egypt together.

Very little is known about Tutankhamun. Experts still disagree about who he really was. Some think he was Akhenaten’s son, others believe he was Akhenaten’s brother.

It is thought that Tutankhamum was brought up in Akhenaten’s royal court at El-Armana. He became pharaoh, aged nine, in 1336 BC, and was crowned at Memphis.

He married his half-sister, Ankhesenamun. They had no children who survived, and two foetuses found in the tomb may have been their stillborn daughters.

Because Tutankhamun was just a boy, he was very dependent on his ministers. Most important decisions were taken by Ay, the elderly chief minister, and Horemheb, the head of the army.

The young king reintroduced the worship of Amun and the other gods. As a sign of this, he changed his name from its earlier version, Tutankhaten to Tutankhamun.

He died suddenly in 1327 BC, the ninth year of his reign, aged 18. He was succeeded by Ay.

Was He Murdered?

Two post mortems have been carried out on Tutankhamun’s corpse. Neither could prove the cause of death, but damage to the skull suggested that he either had an accident or was hit on the head. It is believed that Ay had Tutankhamun murdered so that he could be pharaoh.

An X-ray, taken in 1968, of Tutankhamun’s skull shows a piece of bone inside the skull. This could have been caused by a fall, a blow to the head, or the mummification process. Recent evidence suggests a blow was the most likely cause, so he was probably murdered.

Three Types of Plague

Type 1 – Bubonic Plague

The most common form. This disease is characterised by an extremely high fever, chills, and ultimately delirium and death. The bacilli collect in the lymph nodes, particularly those in the armpits and groin. The nodes swell and become extremely painful. These swellings are called buboes, hence the name bubonic plague. Death from bubonic plague usually comes within a week.

Type 2 – Septicemic Plague

When an individual suffers an overwhelming invasion of plague bacilli, the germs may go directly into the bloodstream. Such an infection is known as septicemic plague. This form of plague kills more quickly, commonly within three days. There are even stories of a person going to bed healthy and being dead of plague the following morning. The victim may die before the swellings and other characteristic signs of plague appear. In some cases purplish or blackish spots appear on the victim’s skin. This symptom may account for the name Black Plague often used to describe the disease.

Type 3 – Pneumonic Plague

In this case the bacilli invade the lungs, which are called pneumons in Greek. Pneumonic plague can appear as a complication of bubonic plague, just as pneumonia can sometimes be a complication of influenza or even a common cold. Pneumonic plague can also be the original infection. Death from this form of plague comes with a few days.

More Information

Not everyone who contracted the plague died, but the chances of recovery in the fourteenth century was slight. Sometimes the buboes would burst and drain, and then the victim may have recovered. Medical authorities estimate that ninety percent of untreated cases of plague resulted in death. With modern medical treatment, particularly antibiotics, the mortality rate can be reduced to five percent.

fleaUsually in a plague epidemic, all three different forms of the infection are present.

Bubonic plague is spread by the bite of a flea that has previously bitten an infected rat. In this form of plague, there are not enough plague bacilli in the bloodstream of a human victim to cause infection in another human being.

In the septicemic form of plague, however, there is a high concentration of bacilli in the bloodstream. Some medical authorities believe that in this form the disease may be carried from one human victim to another by Pulex irritans, a flea that uses man as its primary host. Human fleas were common pests in medieval Europe.

Plague bacilli can also enter the bloodstream of a person who handles an infected rat or human through a break in the skin. This method of infection, however, is rare.

Pneumonic plague is the only form of plague which can be spread easily from one human being to another. During the disease the victim commonly coughs up blood and mucus. The tiny droplets of mucus coughed or sneezed into the air contain plague bacilli. These bacilli are breathed in by others. Once in the lungs of a new victim, the bacilli multiply and produce another case of pneumonic plague.

Write a Chapter a Week

Imagine… if you could write one chapter a day – a first draft – you’d have your first completed (draft) manuscript finished within a month.

Sounds so easy, doesn’t it? You’d think it would be easy to write say 10 or 12 pages a day. Simple! For some this may be the case but for most, it is not.

OK, let’s be more realistic. Let’s say that we can write one chapter a week. Now this is setting a much easier goal and it’s more likely you’ll achieve it. If we did this we’d be writing a complete manuscript in roughly six or seven months. This would mean a word count of approximately 100,000 words and as unpublished authors, this is the recommended length of our first unpublished manuscript.

With the first draft down on paper, you will be able to go back and revise efficiently because not only are you still feeling enthusiastic about the storyline, you will be able to remember most of it! Some of us (yes, I include myself here) take so long writing our precious masterpieces that we actually forget how the story started – that’s how long it has taken to write the thing.

There’s nothing worse than reaching the revision stage and then thinking – “I am so sick of this story!” Of course you are, you’ve been writing it for 2 years (maybe even 5 years). You need to write something new and exciting. So, if this sounds like you – maybe the “one chapter a week” method is exactly what you’ve been looking for. I know I’m going to give it a try.

Is this a method that could benefit you too?

The Great Fire of 1666

Soon after midnight on Sunday 2 September 1666 a fire broke out in a baker’s shop in Pudding Lane, near London Bridge. It spread rapidly through the narrow streets where the high houses were tightly packed together. Like trees in a forest, they were tinder-dry after a long hot summer.

The Thames was so low that little water could be pumped up to fight the flames. The fire soon burnt the watersheels under the bridge which worked the pumps. By dawn it had readed the warehouses around London Bridge. They were full of inflammable materials such as tallow, sugar, oil, spirits, coal, hay and timber. A strong wind blowing from the east fanned the flames. The fire spread from the burning warehouses, first along the riverfront and then inland across the city. Sparks were blown by the wind and fell on thatched roofs and timbers, starting new fires and filling the sky with flame and smoke. In places the fire raced across the rooftops faster than a man could walk. In the streets below some people tried frantically to save themselves and their possessions while others tried in vain to fight and stop the fire. They were handicapped by carts, laden with goods, blocking the narrow streets.


For three days the wind blew and the fire raged through the densely packed streets and up the little hill which brought it to the centre of the city. Nother was spared; 87 of London’s 109 churches caught fire, the flames from their steeples marking the progress of the fire. The houses of the rich merchants and the halls of their trading companies, with their treasures in painting and woodwork, were consumed; the great oak roof of the Guildhall, centre of London’s government, burnt only eight days after orders had been given for extensive repairs to be made. Six acres of lead melted from the roof and crashed through the foor, shattering the tombs beneath, and the stones cracked causing fragments to fly in all directions.

By Wednesday, the fire had gone past the city wall and into the Liberties. It seemed about to spread to the royal palaces at Westminster when the wind dropped, the firefighters gained control and the fire ended almost as quickly as it had begun.

The Castle

The early castles were usually a type called motte-and-bailey. Castle builders made a huge, steep, earth mound surrounded by a very deep ditch. Around the top of the mound they erected a timber wall. Within the wall was a stronghold called a keep which was usually a tall, wooden, rectangular tower. Below the motte there was a large area enclosed by its own ditch and wall. This was the bailey. Usually the castle’s commander and his family lived in the keep, and his soldiers, with their horses and supplies, were housed in buildings in the bailey.


While the outside walls of a castle were often whitewashed, so that they gleamed in the sunlight. The walls inside were also whitewashed. In the great hall and the nobles’ chambers, the walls were often paneled with wood, painted white or in colours such as green and gold, and even embellished with murals. Hangings of painted cloth provided more decoration and helped cut down on drafts.

In the fourteenth century tapestries became popular wall coverings. Floors during this period, however, were generally bare wood or stone, strewn with sweet-smelling rushes and herbs. To take advantage of the natural light in order to read, do needlework or simply to view the garden, a cushioned window seat was usually placed beneath the large windows. Other lighting was provided by candles made from animal fat or sometimes (if it could be afforded) beeswax and oil lamps. Fireplaces provided both light and heat.

High, curtained beds, with feather filled mattresses piled with quilts and fur blankets kept the lords and ladies warm at night. The bed was so large that usually there was little other furniture in the chamber – just a few stools and carved wooden chests for storage. Close to the chamber would be a garderobe, a kind of indoor outhouse with a seat located over a chute that generally led to the moat. This may have been convenient but there was no toilet paper; hay was used instead.

The castle’s residents ate their meals together in the great hall, so a kitchen building was usually close by. Food was stored in or near the hall. A well and several cisterns, which caught rainwater, supplied water to the castle.

Is it full?

The following was in an email sent by a member of my writing group. Thanks, Joy. I think it tells a good story and wanted to share it. The words that follow spoke to me and I hope they speak to you too.

A professor filled a quart mason jar with golf balls and asked if the jar was full.

The professor then asked the other students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

So, the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more, if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous, “Yes.”

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table, and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty spaces between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things – your family, your children, your health, your friends, your favorite passions – things that if everything else was lost, and only they remained, your life could still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter, like your job, your house, your car. The sand is everything else – the small stuff.”

“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles, or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.”