Every now and then I reach out on Twitter or Facebook to see if anyone has any subjects they want me to blog about. Last night I did that, and Jaime brought up editing and word counts. She asked….word count before editing vs. Increased (typical) word count after? So you stop at one? Why? Does story lack if you stop?
So here’s my thoughts on this topic…
Word counts are a guideline, and a tool. This is my opinion, and yes, it can get me in trouble because I am often (almost always) short on my wordcounts. The reason I think of it as a guideline is because to me, and I believe to readers, it’s the story that matters, not how many words it takes to tell it. They’re a tool because they help publishers figure out where to put the story (in an anthology, on it’s own, as a special release) and what price point it should be sold at.
I also think wordcounts are an authors tool for when they are plotting, or planing, or looking at pacing. What I don’t believe is that hitting a wordcount is more important than making the story the best it can be. I don’t believe in adding words, or scenes, just to hit a certain wordcount.
By that I mean, I hate it when a critique partner, or an editor, says “Just add another sex scene” when I’m looking for ways to increase my works length. I think that just adding scenes, for the sake of increasing wordcount can actually hurt a story if they are simply filler. Each and every scene in a story should add something to the story for the reader. It could be plot, emotion, humor, description…it really doesn’t matter what it adds, as long as it’s adding something. For this reason, where you edit, (as in while you write, or if you prefer to do drafts) is a very personal choice. And for me, it can vary from story to story.
Some stories just need a little tweaking and fleshing out as I write, and others need to be read, rewritten, read again, and rewritten again.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I believe that readers would rather have a full, well-rounded story that is a bit short on it’s wordcount, than one that hits the right number of words, but has too much description, or lags in places due to un-needed scenes. I know thats how *I* feel as a reader, so it’s what I keep in mind when I write.
There’s no wrong or right answer to Jaime’s question. What it all comes down to is individual style, and whatever works to make the story the best it can be.