The Devilish ‘Word Count’

“Accepting short stories no longer than 1,500 words”

“Accepting romance manuscripts – at least 60,000 words”

“Accepting suspense manuscripts – at least 70,000 words”

“Accepting fantasy manuscripts – at least 100,000 words”

Yeah, I get it. You’re annoyed already. It’s alright. I am, too. This is something anyone who has ever gotten published, or even tried to, has seen. The dreaded ‘word count’. As writers, were always trying to hit that number, or make sure as heck we don’t.

From a publishing stand point, it makes sense, sure. You wrote an amazing short story, and the publisher of the magazine you just submitted to can see that as well. The bad part is that they have limited white space. A magazine only has so many pages; they’re limited, so why shouldn’t you be?

We all get that.

Word count turns into an issue when we open up our favorite word processing program and put those oh-so-tired fingers to the keys. We stare at the blinking cursor, waiting for that perfect first sentence to pop onto the page. Then, the groove kicks in. Our fingers are moving faster than our brain.

The story is writing itself!

No matter how focused you get, your eyes twitch – and don’t even try to hide it, it happens to the best of us – we keep glancing down at the perfectly-placed word counter at the bottom of the screen.

250 words … 1,000 words … 10,000 words.

Let’s get to the point: Word count is important for a variety of reasons. Publisher’s need to know how much of their real estate they’ll be taking up. Author’s need to know if they’re writing a short story, novella, or a novel. And readers need to know if they have time to sit down and read that amazing story they downloaded on their phone.

We’re authors, writers, story-tellers. We want to tell the best story we can, through any means necessary. So stop worrying about word count. I hear all the time from writers, “I’m so close to hitting 100,000 words in my manuscript.” Or, “I’ve been trying so hard to write 1,500 words a day – didn’t hit my goal this week.”

Please, for the love of everything literary, stop trying to set these goals! We’re writers – and I’ll keep saying it if I have to – we love words in every manner, so stop worrying about the numbers.

I wish I could say that I didn’t have this issue, but I do every single time I sit down to write. I think too much, and that’s why I wanted to address this issue. Will my cover make my book look cool. Will it feel hefty enough. Blah blah blah. Even as I sit down to write this, I’m wondering if my first blog post is too long, or not long enough.

Truth be told, it really doesn’t make a difference.

In the end, there are times when we really have to be careful about our word count. But none of those times are while we’re writing. Even if your submitting to a magazine that tells you “Hey, dude. No longer than 1,500 words.” Don’t worry about it … just write. Tell your story and let the words spill.

The best advice that I ever received was to always write too much. Word vomit, my teachers called it. Write fast, and misspell everything. No one is going to see it until you publish it. And that’s the beautiful thing about word count, too. Every story is going to need check-overs, edits, and – equally as important – they’re going to need some cuts.

Get your story on the page, then go back through and make some deletions, take out the unnecessary.

Let the story tell itself. It may sound like the easiest concept to grasp, but it’s one of the most difficult to put into action. So, challenge yourself. The next time you sit down to write, pretend you don’t know if you’re writing a piece of flash-fiction or a three-book epic fantasy. Just let the words fall onto the page and see where you end up. Editing, revisions, word-count, it’ll all come later – but, in the end, you’ll never get to it if you don’t just write.

Remember: We’re writers – we love words, so stop worrying about the numbers.

Published by msgormley

Amazon best-selling author. Currently lives in Ohio with his wife and cat, Guenhwyvar.

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