A Word about Word Count

June 6, 2011

I write short. I won’t even begin to analyze why. The only thing I will say is that it’s odd to me, because I certainly don’t talk short. (Ask my kids who’ve sat through miles of lectures.)

Writing short is a blessing and a curse. On the positive side, I never have to worry if a story is too long or live through torturous edits, cutting tens of thousands of words I love just to make it below the required word count. I also have plenty of room to expand upon scenes should my muse move me. But more often than not, my muse doesn’t move me to expand what I’ve written, and I’m left with a completed manuscript 5K to 10K too short. This pains me like you wouldn’t believe. I lose sleep over the lack of material. I put the manuscript aside for a few days, and then I read through, hoping an opportunity for boosting the word count will jump off the page and start me writing again. For some reason, this rarely happens, and I’m left with hour after hour of debating whether or not I’m adding something for the sake of adding it or if the addition strengthens the story.

I’ve read a lot about people who write long. Much is devoted to helping them trim their word counts. But what about people like me? Do you write short? Do you have tips or resources on boosting word count without weakening the story? I’d love some help here.


7 Responses to “A Word about Word Count”

  1. Regretfully to say, I don’t have much I can say about writing short. Much like there’s a way to shorten long writings, there will be one to lengthen them.
    Something I believe would help is to consider the early stages of writing the novel. Were there scenes you fell in love with and that wouldn’t leave your mind, but that you didn’t add because you figured it would make the novel too long?
    I tend to have scenes like that; little moments for added detail that won’t leave me alone. See if you can find something like that; one will help and if you locate a couple of them, you’ll be well into the average novel word count before you know it.

  2. Thanks, Natasha!

    I will try your suggestion. It sounds promising.


  3. Tari Says:

    I tend to write short as well. I think it’s from years of writing articles and speeches, I always go slightly short! And…no one who talks to me would believe that!

    • I thought it might be from the non-fiction experience too. I wrote essays for the back pages of women’s magazines for years, and the word count was very tight there. Who knows? Habits are hard to break though. 🙂

  4. Andrea Says:

    Normally I write short, but on this current WIP, I’ve not had any trouble.

    The only difference I can see is that I’ve dug much deeper into why my characters are doing what they’re doing, and describing how they feel through actions.

    I think normally I just tell the story, but without enough depth.

    Perhaps you could go back through and share more of your characters feelings with your readers…

    • Digging deeper. Hmmm. Seems like such a simple concept, doesn’t it? But you could be right. I was reading through the ms, and I made notes of spots where I needed MORE (underlined several times). I think your comment about telling the story but without enough depth is right on for me.

      Thanks for giving me something else to think about, Andrea!


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