Tuesday, November 15, 2011

For Story's Sake, Don't Worry About Word Count


Do you ever find yourself at some point in your writing process scratching out words, adding some in and then repeating the process several times before you end up back to where you were in the first place?  Or do you ever concern yourself over WC - after all, there are preset definitions for the different genres?  Or are you the type of writer who crafts the first draft seaminglessly making forward progress without the need to edit as you go?

I'm sure most of us are guilty of editing as we go along even if this means small changes, and honestly I don't see any issue in that.  However, if you're editing every word as you go along you might be hurting your story.  I realize we all have processes that work for us individually and maybe you find this works for you.  I know it doesn't for me.

When I write I love the free flow of words.  I'm not saying I never backspace or reword as I go along but I don't allow myself to become compulsive over word choice or count.  Honestly for story's sake, I don't suggest as writer's that we do.

If we allow ourselves to obsess over each word, we risk losing the story.  The worry over word count can even come into play after the first draft.  After all, we're wanting to query to agents who can reject on word count alone if our book is either too short or too long.  This is my advice:  write your story the best way to tell it.  Simple.

But what about during the first draft?  If we're worried about word count, we'll trim back character descriptions, motivations and backgrounds - three things of which contribute integrally to the impact of the story.  We risk not including enough information.

What about during the editing process?  We risk taking out necessary information.  If you have to trim the MS back due to WC be selective and be careful.  Don't take out words simply to reach a quota.

So am I saying don't worry about word count at all?  No.  I'm saying don't obsess over it and I'm sure you'll find your final MS will fall within the predefined parameters for your genre.  It's like that saying, "worrying doesn't do any good".  In fact when it comes to stressing about word count your story's at stake.