Why Word Count Doesn’t Matter

It’s like “the thing” every writer talks about in reference to writing… word count. Have you ever had a conversation about a project you are working on or another writer is working on without asking or telling about the word count? Impossible, right?

It’s always about the word count whether it is self-imposed or a count the publisher set. And it’s sad, because there is so much emphasis put on word count, a writer can be fooled into thinking it matters, when really it doesn’t.

Oh boy. I know I pissed off people with that statement. lol… Good, because what I have to say next is important, so listen up.

I have read soooo many stories (and this is especially true with a lot of slush I’m reading) and novels where the writing is just not quite as good as it could be. Now that could very well be because of the writer’s experience or the lack thereof. Or maybe just the lack of effort period. But it is so very sad to see a story stripped of it’s true potential because a person has been reduced to fitting a story into a certain word count. The story could be so much more, but the constraint of making sure the story is a certain word length chokes the life from what it could be.

And I’ve seen a lot of that lately. And I’m guilty of doing it myself.

That being said, word count can be reduced greatly by being more precise in word choice. Make those words do double and triple duty. Get the biggest bang for that word you can. Readers eat that kind of stuff up like candy! And they think you’re some kind of genius for doing it too. Lol… Well, it may not elevate you to genius status, but there are certain writers like Craig Johnson, Damien Angelica Walters, Christopher MooreJennifer Pelland, and David Wellington (and if you haven’t checked out these authors you really should!) that make writing come alive, and it’s all because of the words they choose to use.

But sometimes no matter how choosy you get with words, or how much triple duty those words do, the story may not get within the confides of the expected word count.

What the hell do you do then?

The solution most people have is to chop.

Some chopping might be good for the story and for the soul too, but when you start chopping to the point of effecting the integrity of the story that’s where word count can become a terrible enemy.

Or here’s another problem…

Writers will write and never reach the story potential at all, because they have to cram as much into that story as possible (because of that word count looming over their heads), and in response they end up making plot and story flow choices that leave a story just-okay, or god forbid, mediocre at best.

The solution to this problem…

Find somewhere else to submit your story. Really, it will be okay. And the world will be better for not having one more just-okay story while you look to place it somewhere else. Or here’s a thought… keep that story to yourself for awhile and wait to see it an opportunity comes to you.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about going out and getting into the fray and sending work to as many publishers as possible, if that’s something you want to do, but I think so many people are so anxious to get published they forget to put more effort into their work. And this fact is evident with all those just-okay stories littering the market place.

So don’t be the next just-okay author. Expect better of yourself and spend time making the story what it truly needs to be instead of allowing others to dictate your pace and word count. It is your work and something to be proud of, so put something out there you can be proud of. And even more than that, stories and characters deserve to be the best they can be. So be a good writer and give your characters a chance to shine like they were always meant to.


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