W is for word count
Sin #22: Quantity over quality
“It is the quality of our work which will please God and not the quantity.” Mahatma Gandhi
Now I can’t speak for God, but as a reader I can definitely confirm the above statement is true!
There are far too many writers out there who rely solely on word count. They tap away at the keyboard for a minute or so…check the word count…go back to typing and chewing a pencil whilst trying to look thoughtful…check the word count…umm and ahh about leaving an apostrophe in or taking it out…check the word count and punch the air because they’ve wrote enough words…
Enough words? How many words is that precisely?
Well, how long is a piece of string?
While there are certain ‘boundaries’, which are typically adhered to whilst classifying a piece of work (Novel: over 40,000 words, novella: 17,500 to 40,000 words, novelette: 7,500 to 17,500 words, short story: under 7,500 words, flash fiction: under 1000 words), we should never lose sight of our original aim.
To satisfy the reader and tell our story the way we want to.
Some authors are so adamant they need to reach a certain word count that they will continue to write even when their story has been told. They panic when they reach the logical end of their plot and still haven’t reached that magical figure.
Try not to get too bogged down with word counts, instead concentrate on the quality of your work.
After all, the most memorable books are not necessarily the longest – books such as I am Legend by Richard Matheson, The Invisible Man by H.G Wells, The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney or The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson can each be read in one night, if you were so inclined!
These are all amazing examples of literature that tell their story perfectly without rambling on for the sake of a colossal word count.
If you finish your story, then you’ve finished your story, don’t spoil that fact by scrabbling to add meaningless words.
Congratulate yourself, pull a party popper, and then begin editing your work – trust me there will be plenty of opportunities to add more words during the editing process.
You’ll lose and add thousands of words when polishing your first draft, and probably more when completing further drafts.
So try and resist the temptation to check your word count every few minutes and instead focus on improving the quality of your work.