This week: A Focus on the Numbers: Word Counting Edited by: Dawn Embers
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|Short Story Newsletter by Dawn|
The focus on numbers and when to worry about keeping track when writing a short story.
|There are so many numbers and things to focus on in a given day, at least for me. There are the calories (getting ready for a vacation) with this sandwich being 300 and that donut is 200. Oh how they add up. Or there are the numbers at the gym. For squat program says to do 151 for two sets of three reps or over on bench supposed to do six sets of two reps at 98 pounds. And my writing life is another place where I often find a focus on numbers, on the number of words used to create the stories.|
Word count can be an important focus when it comes to story writing. It can designate a classification and determine if the story qualifies to be entered in a contest or submitted to a publisher. At the same time, there also isn't always an exact, agreed upon count. While there is some wiggle room between the various types with what qualifies as a count length (always check requirements when submitting) here are some general counts:
Micro Fiction under 500
Flash Fiction under 1,000
Short Story under 7,500
Novelette 7,500 - 17,500
Novella 17,500 - 40,000
Novel 40,000 and beyond
These are not exact for a few reasons as some of you might already be protesting those numbers. For one thing, some consider micro fiction and flash fiction to be somewhat the same, while others would definitely disagree. A few locations even place everything under short story and don't have anything below that number separated or specified. One source might label flash fiction as being under 2,000 words while another puts a minimum limit to 53 words despite some stories coming in under that mark. At the same time there are also different terms to classify some of the short lengths, such as 6 word story, twitterature (140 character limir), dribble, drabble and sudden fiction. And that's just with the short side. As you can imagine, the novel has some issues too since many consider 50,000 to be too short even and there are some writers out there who can get their stories to epic lengths. It can be hard to keep track and figure out where a story might belong.
Does it need to be a stress? I'd say no, for the most part. When writing the story, we don't always need to be focused on how long it is going to be, in the first or second drafts in particular. However, it can be a good thing to consider. If entering a contest on here, for example, you do want to follow the word count requirements since they are part of the contest rules. You don't have to obsess over it though. That's why it's good to write with time to spare before the deadline because you might want to some room to expand or cut back.
When you need to focus on word count will also vary because we don't all write the same. For the contests that allow a few thousand words, for example, I don't worry about the count as I'm writing the first draft. It's harder just to keep writing and get something done even in the month long time frame often allowed. I can always add a little or take a little away before submitting. However, if it's a flash fiction contest where the limit is under 1,000 words, then I tend to be more cautious. It's one thing to cut out 500 words in a story that is over 5,000 words long. It's another to cut out 500 words in one that only made it to 1,500. I've had to trim down almost half a story before as I let things get away when the limit was very small for the word count. So, for those particular ones, I need to keep word count in mind from the beginning because I'm focusing on entering and following requirements along with story. For novels, I just write and see where things fall because I can edit and rewrite later.
Off site has similar requirements. When submitting a story there are going to be restrictions based around the number of words in a story. Posting things online will also have some lengths that work better than others and so on. It's a factor we do have to keep in mind since it in some ways defines what qualifies as a short story but it's one part of many in the grand scheme of events that goes into writing a story.
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|Do you focus on the word count while writing or worry more about that in rewrites and edits?|
Wow, I haven't done this newsletter in a while. Way back in December, I wrote for this newsletter and discussed timing when submitting holiday stories. Had a limited response but here is a comment that was sent in from that newsletter:
Comment by Bubblegum Jones
I would like to enter my special short story "Please Say Christmas" into your Christmas contest this year. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much and Merry Christmas to everyone at this great writing web site, Bubblegum Jones
- Thanks for sending in the comment. Sorry that there wasn't a contest with the newsletter but hope you enjoyed working on the Christmas based story.
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