We are word counters, us writers. At some point our work lives or dies by the number of words we have invested into a story. Publishers and editors have their reasons for needing to hit that special magic number. Sometimes the word count matters because of space allotted, sometimes it is all about the length (because in books sometimes size matters….lol) and still, other times, the word count is important because that’s the way we get paid. No matter what the reason, if you are a writer, you have one eye on the word count all the way through your work most times.
Here’s the thing though…we have to be careful when watching that little word ticker. If we aren’t, our stories could fall victim to something akin to the verbal flu…just as too many antibodies can make you sick, so can too many words or too few words…or keeping count in the first place. Okay, hold on now, before you tilt your head, and in your best Scooby Doo voice, ask, “huh”…let me explain.
While we should watch our word counts we need to make sure that we, as writers, don’t become obsessed with it. It is an easy thing to find yourself mired in. You are writing along and with one eye on the word count, suddenly you become concerned that you are short verbiage so you start adding stuff in, only it’s crap, because it doesn’t fit, because now you’re writing isn’t about the story but about making sure that you have enough words to make the count. OR you notice that you have too many words and so now your story is getting choppy because you are cutting it in places you shouldn’t, again trying to make that word count. Either way, because you have an eye on that word count, your story is in real trouble.
So how then do we ensure that the word count monster doesn’t take over the planet of your story? It’s simple…stop watching it. Granted when you are finished with your story you do have to revisit the word count so that you can at least hit the target but, at least if you wait until then, you have a finished story to work with and you are not filling or cutting in a haphazard way. Work on making your words count while writing instead of counting them as you are writing; if you do, your story will be all the better for it.
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