Monday, October 1, 2012

Words Count When It Comes to Word Counts

From Kate's Writing Crate...

          While growing up, reading was second only to breathing in my life. As long as I can remember, whenever I had a problem or an interest, I went looking for and discovered books that enlightened me.

          When I decided I wanted to be a writer, I again turned to books. I read about writing, rewriting, and editing. Not sure what genre to choose, I read about writing novels, romances, memoirs, screenplays, and non-fiction.

          I took one writing class. I learned more about the craft, but, more importantly, I got my first two writing jobs from connections I made there.

          Before I got these jobs, I wrote occasionally. I had to work writing in around my 9-5 job, family obligations, errands, chores, illnesses, exhaustion, and resistance. In the end, I didn't accomplish enough.

           However, once I had professional deadlines, my writing habits became regular and ingrained. I made the time to write. Editors were counting on me and I was not going to disappoint them or myself.

           Now my regular monthly assignments are writing profiles and articles after interviewing individuals and members of organizations. I also write book reviews and essays.

          The word count for these assignments is a range, not a hard number. I never gave much thought to the word count when I wrote. I just wrote, rewrote, and edited until the article was done then checked the word count. It usually fell within the range so the assignment was complete.

          But I now realize I wrote only well enough.

          I made this discovery when I gave myself the hard word count of 500 maximum for my posts on this blog.

          I still write without a thought about the word count although I may track it. I rewrite and edit my posts four, five, six times or more.

          Then I check the word count and, for me, the real fun of blogging begins. I refine and sharpen my sentences; this is not to say I ever reach perfection, but I improve the posts with each pass.

          It's essential to make every word tell--to use the most descriptive, encompassing, or specific words, which means searching and stretching my vocabulary. When I find each one, I recognize it--almost hearing a click--and no other word will suffice.

          I have made similar rewrites and edits before, but because of the hard word count, these improvements really resonate in me, especially when I am at the 500 limit and find another change that must be made. I then have to make difficult decisions and rewrites to return to that total. At times, it's frustrating, but, mostly, it's exhilarating!

          I think writing a blog with a hard word count is one of the best ways to improve your writing. Along with the pressure of a weekly deadline, blogging is a high stakes game with a potential world-wide audience. What more could any writer ask for? Well, being paid would be better--and you might get some offers. You won't know until you blog.

Do hard word counts improve your writing?

1 comment:

  1. This story really resonates. I completely relate to that "click." One can use a word that is technically correct, but the rhythm of the sentence is wrong. The writer James Lee Burke once told me he likes the "cadence" in my writing. I believe that is the click. A good writer knows when it is right and true.

    My method is to throw everything down as it comes, and then edit, edit, edit. Change. Move. Re-write. I have never used word count, but may give it a try.

    I think I can learn a lot from this site.