October 16th, 2012 by Sasha White
Editing and Word Count

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.

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6 comments to “Editing and Word Count”

  1. Taryn Elliott
     · October 16th, 2012 at 4:17 pm · Link

    Boy, wish that was my problem.
    I’m never under. I’m always having to tweak my books on edits to take out words. And not because I’m too precious with my words. I can kill my darlings–it sucks, but it’s a necessary step in self-editing. But if a line gives me 65k to work with, I’m going to end up using every last word.

    Great topic.

  2. Selena Blake
     · October 16th, 2012 at 4:56 pm · Link

    Adding a love scene only makes sense if there’s a part of the story missing that a love scene (and the accompanying emotions and dialog) can fulfill. That’s my opinion of course. But then, I do think that one can overdo it in regard to sex in a book. *gasp*

    I always write short. I do that because I know that when I revise I generally add 1/4 of the original length to the book. Fleshing out is part of my revision process. I’ve accepted and embraced that.

    The more I write, the more I do look to those wordcounts as a guideline of where I should be in my story. That’s an added comfort that I didn’t understand as a new writer. For me, it’s not hard and fast, obviously. But something to note and consider.

    I think that the important thing for writers to take away regarding editing and final word count is that if the wordcount is set by a publisher, you need to be as close to it as possible. Your editor can help you get there. But the more you write, the more you’ll develop patterns and you’ll be able to better anticipate your story in relation to that final goal.

    On the other hand, I did end up with a fifteen page love scene the other day. That never happens to me. LOL


  3. Sasha White
     · October 16th, 2012 at 7:40 pm · Link

    I wish! :)

    I find if my publisher wants 65 K, I plan my story to be around 80K…then I hit about 60-65. LOL

    I have no idea if it’s easier to add or cut. I think both have thier own challenges for sure.

  4. Sasha White
     · October 16th, 2012 at 7:43 pm · Link

    The more I write, the more I do look to those wordcounts as a guideline of where I should be in my story.

    exactly what I mean as a guideline. Best use for wordcounts. :)

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