Thursday, July 14, 2022

Measuring Things by Merrillee Whren


As you can see from the image above, today is National Tape Measure Day. I'm not here just to talk about tape measures, but I did find interesting information about tape measures. On July 14, 1868 Alvin J. Fellows received a patent for "Improvement in Tape Measures." He made life easier for many occupations that use measurements, such as carpenters, seamtresses, or electricians. The retractable tape measure improved on the previous bulky tape measures that didn't fit in a pocket.

But I wanted to talk about another kind of measurement. Word Count. That's a measurement for authors. Word processing programs give an exact word count for what I am writing. When I began writing with the thought of publication in mind, I discovered that many publishers want a certain word count, especially category romance publishers such as Harlequin. 

I started writing a story on a typewriter and thankfully we got a portable computer, or I believe I would never have finished a novel. I was always a terrible typist, and a computer word processing program freed me to make mistakes and easily go back and correct them. The early word processing program I used didn't give word count. I could only estimate the word count using a formula that I barely remember, something about counting words on ten lines and then multiplying them by something. I could also estimate the word count by having twenty-five lines on a page with a certain kind of font. Usually that gave me an estimate of 250 words per page. 

When I finally started using a word processing program that gave me actual word count, I discovered that the estimates were off by quite a bit. Now I look at the word count in the corner to see how many words I have written each day. Sometimes it's disappointing when I don't write as many words as I intended to write. Other days I'm thrilled that I exceeded my planned word count for the day.

Like people who began using the new and improved tape measure, I love having the exact word count at my disposal every day. I recently finished writing my Puppies for Christmas novella. It came in at  38942 words. It is now in the hands of my editor, and if the past is any predictor, she will have me trim a few words. The novella will come out in November as part of the Puppies for Christmas promotion from some of the authors from Sweet Romance Reads.  

Who can resist two cute kids and a dog? They are working hard as matchmakers for their widower dad, but it's Christmas time, a time of year that makes him sad. So they have to work extra hard.

What is something that makes your life easier? A tape measure, a new appliance, or a new gadget of some kind?

Merrillee Whren is the winner of the 2003 Golden Heart Award presented by Romance Writers of American. She is married to her own personal hero, her husband of forty-plus years, and has two grown daughters. Connect with her on her Facebook page and sign up for her newsletter.


  1. Yes, Merrillee, authors really do live by the word count measurement. :) Merry Christmas in July!

  2. I wouldn't be a writer either if I had to use a typewriter. I edit way too much! As for what's made my life easier besides computers, I say my Ninja blender. I seriously love that thing!