by Edie Melson @EdieMelson
The love/hate relationship between writers & word count –via @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)
|Sometimes our lives seem governed by word count.|
As working writers, our lives sometimes seem governed by word count. We use these numbers to set goals, define projects and sometimes even determine our victories. But it’s important to also view these numbers as a guide to show us how far we’ve come.
I remember in high school—the anguish I felt when an English teacher assigned a 500-word essay. Pulling together that many words in an original sequence seemed an almost impossible task. I spent hours looking for places to add the words that, the, and of course and. Of course back then, essays were written long-hand. No quick check in MS Word or an easy way to add in extras here and there.
Yes, I’m old. Don’t rub it in.
I would write a paragraph, and then stop to count the words, working to make the required 500 without going over too much. It was agony.
Today my issue is a different one.
|When did 500 words morph from too many to too few?|
Now, when I get a writing assignment like a guest blog post, and I see that the word count is 500 words I still groan, but for a much different reason. I wonder how on earth I can say something worthwhile in only 500 words.
When exactly did 500 words morph from too many to too few?
After I decided to take up writing full-time, I began by trying to write fiction. My words overflowed the page. Flowery phrases dotted my chapters as I tried to translate what was in my mind into the black and white of letters and words.
Adverbs and adjectives were my best buddies.
Then I started taking classes, attending conferences and sharing my writing with critique partners. The pages began to bleed red as my darlings were murdered. But I learned the skill of a single active verb and a strong noun.
|I laid aside my fiction endeavors to earn some money.|
I laid aside my fiction endeavors to earn some money. That meant freelance writing—articles, blog posts, and writing copy (advertising). I no longer felt compelled to put down every word that came into my head and I learned how to write tight, making every word count. For a while I did copy writing for a well-known Christian publisher. I would get a book and have to write a 300-word blurb, a 100-word blurb, a 50-word blurb, a 25-word hook, a 20-word hook, and a 12-word hook. I reveled in the ability to convey an idea in such a short space.
Then the opportunity came to revisit book-length projects. With my newfound skills, I once again struggled to find words. But this time I measured them by their quality not their quantity. I dug deeper instead of wider and my books became reality.
In some ways I’m right where I started. In other ways, not so much. Now word count is my friend, not my enemy.
This is my path, my love/hate relationship with word count. I’d like to hear yours. Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Don’t forget to join the conversation!
PS. This blog post comes in at exactly 500 words, minus the title and tweetables.