It feels like writing has always been tied with numbers. The dreaded word count. It starts at school when you have to write an essay or answer an exam question to a particular word count and then application forms with their fixed boxes to fit your words into. Then if you start writing fiction the word count anxiety comes back, how long should a short story be or a novella or a novel??
There is, of course, a benefit to knowing the average word counts for fiction if you’re trying to get published but it can be easy to become too fixed on those numbers at the bottom of your computer screen. Plus there are also exceptions – novels that are much longer or shorter on the bookshop shelves.
I tend to write concisely. The idea of producing 100,000 words plus is really daunting to me. When I edit, I tend to add words not cut them whereas there are lots of writers who are the opposite.
But I try to remind myself of that old cliche – quality not quantity. I’ve seen people say online that a story should be as long as it needs to be. This can be difficult to know, of course, and often I’ll wonder if I need more characters or subplots or a page of description rather than a paragraph. I think it’s about finding your writing style though and that will affect your word count. What works for another writer won’t for you.
I’m learning not to beat myself up for not writing epic novels. I’ve had some fun lately writing shorter stories just to experiment and it’s definitely true that some stories just work as shorter or longer fiction, you just have to go with it.
Do you ever get anxious about word counts?