Discussion: Word Count VS Word Quality

One of the things I encounter a lot when I’m mentoring, or speaking to new authors, is the question, “What’s the average word count for _____?”

It’s not uncommon for new authors to face this daunting question, then fashion their work according to the rule of “word count”. My answer, however, never changes. I tell the, “Focus on the quality of the words, not the word count.”

I know there are naysayers out there who firmly believe in stringent rules for word counts. A novel must be over 60-75k words. Unless it’s in the Fantasy genre. Then we aim higher for 90k words. While these are fair goals to shoot for, it can start to hinder progress. If the author is caught up in shaving, or padding their story, the story itself suffers.

An author needs to be focused on things like character development, story development, timelines, grammar, and plot. Without these, who cares how many words are in between the front and back cover? I’ve encountered a fair amount of books where the story idea is a fantastic one, but the execution is flat. There’s nothing worse than getting your reader hyped for a cool plot then leaving them high and dry.

Essentially, when you put the time into the elements which make a story great, you establish trust between yourself and your reader. They know, no matter how thick, or thin your book is, they are in for a ride. And to be fair, you should always label your book in the correct category once it’s complete. Readers are very particular. When they purchase a book and expect a novel but only get 20k words, they get upset, too. Imagine you’re on the best date of your life, and right in the middle of it, the person turns and says, “I have to go.” Kind of the same thing, here. Especially if they are paying the price of a novel.

Another thing to consider, is editing. Once your story goes to an editor, they will decide whether your story can best be told without the padding, or if it requires more words. The best exercise you can practice, is to audit the words you use.

Ahh, now there’s a word we don’t see often. We all know what editing is, but what is auditing?

For me, auditing is when you take stock of the words you’ve used and ask yourself this question, “Is this a powerful image?”

You want your readers to use all five senses when they read your story. We all have our own ideas of: beautiful, smells bad, dark, ugly. To be honest, it’s all perspective. Why leave it to them to interpret? Instead of saying, “It smelled bad.” Drag the reader kicking and screaming into it with you! Only – you have to be careful. Do not overload them with adjectives. This is what it means when editors say, “show, don’t tell.”

Simple examples:

Instead of, “There were a lot of trees.” 

You could say, “It was a lavish treeline.”

Same amount of words but paints a better picture.

I hope this has helped you in some way. Let me hear your thoughts! Going forward, I’m going to post some exercises, more tips and tricks, as well as anything else I can dig out of my box of treasures. I hope you’ll interact  and share with me. Let me know how something has helped you in the comments below!

lisa
A WOMAN and CREATOR, WEAVER OF DREAMS, TELLER OF TALES, with an IMAGINATION AS DARK AS A RAVEN’S EYE, THE LIBRAE, THE ORACLE … SHE IS; THE HUSHED WHISPER AMONG THE GRAVES, THE CORRUPTOR, THE HERETIC, THE DARQUE HALO

Twitter: @unsaintly  |  Instagram: @unsaintly  |  Website: unsaintly.com

Trying to Keep it Up

fb_img_1458961349994.jpgAs you all know, the past month (at least, I lost track) has been filled with storms, rain, flooding, rinse and repeat, here in Texas. It has been gloom, to say the very least. I suffer from severe migraines and have, up until now, had them under control until this weather began. The entire month is a blur and I have to refer to my notes to figure out where I am and where I left off. I’ve been trying to truck through and keep my head up, but then I got some weird cold or plague, whichever. (laughing) My head is pounding and I’d like to rip my own tonsils out. This blog has suffered a little for it, so I apologize. I was doing so well in keeping up with it.

Regardless of how I feel, life still goes on around us. I’m grateful for that because it keeps me from slipping into the dark abyss that is my bed, where it’s nice and warm and gives me a reason to emerge every day. It may only be an hour or two at a time, but it’s progress!

One thing that I look forward to is writing. I promised myself I would write a little everyday. Even if its ideas for other books. I set a little time aside for me to  be creative and purge the ideas that were backlogged in my head.

La Plaga is creeping up on me again, so I will bid you all a good day until I emerge from the lair again. Until then, keep writing.

Post the first line of chapter one in the comments below, let’s inspire one another!