My journey through the world of writing and everything that lies in between…

Word Count Misconceptions

I’ve been working on a basic summary for my short story for the Writer’s Digest competition. As much as I wanted to just throw myself into it and write, I couldn’t do it 😛 I guess I’m a plotter at heart, even when I’m writing a story less than 10K.

I used to write flash fiction–less than 1000 words–and those I generally just threw myself in and wrote, but much more than that and I find I need a basic map.

Of course, after I came up with this “map” for the short story (tentatively titled “The Bog Witch”) I realized it was much too long–and detailed. I threw too much into a story that has a max word count of 4K–which is only a little over 10 pages double spaced. That’s really not that much when you think about it. I somehow thought that 4K was a lot longer than that but no 😛

I’ve had misconceptions about my word count before too. For example, my first NaNo draft of The Scarlet Daughter ended up being over 100K–and I still had a good quarter of the book to reach “the end.” I’ve gotten a little better at judging word count, realizing that I tend to venture into the “too wordy” category all too often. Still, I think I may be a little off in estimating word count in the beginning.

Staying within the limits of word count guidelines, whether for contests, freelance writing, agent/editor submissions, etc. is extremely important. An agent does not want to see in your query that your romance novel is 250K long. And for contests and submissions to magazines or other literary journals, going over word count is a sure way to receive an automatic rejection. Yes, there are some exceptions, mainly when it comes to novels, but I’d still be wary of having a 300K novel, especially if you’re a first-time, unpublished author.

Do you ever over or under estimate your word count?

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Comments on: "Word Count Misconceptions" (3)

  1. Write it anyway, and then cut the heck out of it. ^^

    • That’s generally what I do. When I wrote the flash fiction stories, I almost always had to edit out over 1000 words 😛 I guess when it’s bigger, then the number of words to take out goes up too.

  2. Yep, A.M. Kuska’s advice is what I used to do A LOT during my first 10 or 15 years of writing. Write, write, write — and then cut, cut, cut! 🙂 These days, I’ve gotten better at getting “most” of the story into the rough draft so it’s more of a revise, revise, revise sort of thing instead of cutting. But every now and then, I’m still like, “Wow, I just went on and on in this chapter!” 🙂

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