Word Count — Does It Determine If You Told A Good Story?

Occasionally, I use quotes of writers I admire to open a blog-post. Today, I am going to quote myself…..

“It isn’t about the number of words the author writes,

it is about the story the author tells with the number of words written…. ” 

Joe Leonardi

 

I tend to agree with Edgar Allan Poe who believed that all works should be short. “There is”, he writes, “a distinct limit… to all works of literary art—the limit of a single sitting.” He especially emphasized this “rule” with regards to poetry, but also noted that the short story is superior to the novel for this reason.

One of my favorite quotes is by Ernest Hemingway, “Prose is architecture, not interior decoration.” Reading a Papa story, whether an article, short story or novel, the reader is taken directly to the point. The reader’s time and interest are not wasted by walking around the block and then crossing the street. The destination is reached by a clear, concise and direct path.

I often read on author groups, writers obsessing over the number of words they have written in a sitting, day or week. I genuinely don’t understand why. Are they seeking validation? Looking to trumpet their achievement? Insecure with their story? I have read novels in which words exist merely to fill space, obviously serving no purpose other than achieving an arbitrary word count and contributing little to the story’s impact. In so many aspects of life, it is often stated that quantity does not equal quality — shouldn’t that be the same with the art of writing?

When I craft a story, I focus solely on that story. If it requires five-hundred, five thousand, or more than fifty thousand words, then that is what I write.


 

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