How many words should you write?

Another of my goals for this year is to start blogging again on a consistent basis. I let myself slide last year, and the stats reflect that. I know it should be more than simply a numbers game, but building an audience is part marketing, but mostly it’s just creating content to be read, shared, and I hope enjoyed.

So for the second day of the year, I wanted to look at something we writers focus on, word count. Why is it so important? Again, it’s a numbers game, one that’s tied partly to ego. We all want to write expressively, artistically, and hopefully coherently. For those of us who are naturally quiet, it’s a way to say what we need to say as eloquently as we wish. Through my writing, I can say anything I want to say in real life.

What brought this on was a question someone posted on a NaNoWriMo page on Facebook. A member asked, how many words do you put in a scene? I didn’t answer since I honestly don’t know. Is there a set number of words one should strive for? Does it matter?

Maybe it depends on the genre you’re writing for, but in my humble opinion, who cares? In writing, quality should always trump quantity. Why say in a thousand words what can be said in a hundred? It’s easy to get sucked into the trap of trying to paint an elaborate fresco that we lose focus of the point. Say what needs to be said in as little words as possible.

In my own works, I’ve noticed a wide range of word counts, from a few hundred, up to several thousand words. In each, I worked to add, or to subtract, words in order to accomplish the particular goal of each scene. That’s what makes writing so difficult sometimes. There is no word count rule. It’s all dependent on what you the writer want to say.

I know it’s a crappy answer, if you had hoped for one. I believe I have already stated that I don’t really have an answer. I write as long as it needs to be. The number of words should never be the main objective in anything, whether in the length of a scene, a chapter, or even the finished project.

What’s more important is to engage the reader, to give them enough to create the scene in their head. Too many words have often over-whelmed me, and even bored me to the point I stop reading. Too few, and there isn’t enough information for the reader to form the scene, and why bother continuing?

On that note, I’ll take my own advice and stop here. Write to your heart’s content, but keep in mind that the story itself is what’s important. Don’t belabor your work with unnecessary words, and more importantly, just have fun.

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