Word Count

I’m on the fence here.

See, I love word counts of all size. Thin books or thick, odds are there’s at least one on my bookcase.

Short word counts for a poem: I’ve been known to put twenty words to a stanza, have three stanzas and ten words of opening/closing lines. Even with my terrible maths, that equals eighty words a poem. I like this because it’s weightier than a haiku, and the format suits me. It’s not a sonnet in Shakespeare’s sense, but it generally gives me enough room to toy with words and fuss with meaning. I’m of the opinion (and I apologize now for any pretension) that when you limit your word count each word you do pick carries more meaning.

Longer word counts: flash fiction, short stories, novels. One time I tried a poem, then it ran to about forty lines and was vague enough that I didn’t like it as a poem. I decided it was basically an outline for a short story. Still mapping out general ideas on that, and have muttered promises in the dark of night that one day I’ll self-publish. (If Sarah mutters something in the dark of night and no-one hears, did she say anything?)

This isn’t to say I automatically appreciate a long word count. For instance, some of the Harry Potter books were made a bit weightier by exposition – running through a brief What Happened Last. If I did this I’d probably slash it from my novel, though I can see the uses of it.

I also find that my word count relates to my own habits, when speaking in conversation. Sometimes I’m verbose – have you ever sat down to chat and found yourself in a much longer conversation than expected? Sometimes I’m not, I convey meaning through one or two words. It kind of depends on my mood: sometimes I want to tell a lot and sometimes I don’t. Overall, I guess I just write to my moods, I don’t always track word counts. (Come back in November, ask how my Word Count Spreadsheet And PowerPoint are going) I don’t write to meet a specific word count, I write to express.

(Sorry for any pretension. I’ll be going now)

2 thoughts on “Word Count”

  1. Ah, here’s where we differ – words counts are often the last thing on my mind when I’m writing, whether that’s poetry or flash fiction or short stories or novels. I’ve always thought that the content behind the words are the most important, no matter how many there are. (That said, one of my best friends is just about the most amazing poet you’ll ever meet and hers are often quite short, so there’s something to think about as well!)


    1. Hm… I like my eighty-word poems, but the rest… well, they’re open to any word count. I don’t think I’ve ever sat down to write flash fiction or anything else and given myself a word goal.

      And yes, you’re quite right – the meaning is, after all, the important thing.


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