Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Damn the Word Count - Full Speed Ahead

So, I’ve been reading Stephen King’s On Writing.  In it, he recommends having a toolbox of writing essentials.  I have one.  In it is a dictionary, thesaurus, and my Flip Dictionary.  I'm still up in the air over that one – I’m currently on the “it’s a big thesaurus” team.  Stand by for my final analysis.  And, now I’ve added The Elements of Style (Strunk and William), as per his suggestion, as well as my very own copy of On Writing.    
I’d call On Writing a How-to book on writing, but it’s not.  Reading it is more akin to sitting down with an old friend and having a chat.  Figuratively speaking, I’ve known Stephen since I was a pre-teen. Christine was the first of many of our conversations.  In On Writing, King tucks nuggets of knowledge inside his real life experiences making it seem like less of a DO THIS and more of a HEY, TRY THIS.  (Despite my years in the military – or maybe because of them – I hate being TOLD what to do.)
I’m sure I drove my twitter followers crazy with King quotes this last week, but I can’t get over how helpful I’ve found his advice.  Yesterday I hacked 1000 words from my first chapter.  I tried not to watch as my word count dropped from 3,700 and change down to 2,605 as I cut out all the repetitiveness, adverbs and random blather.  Then, I had an epiphany – I realized the quantity had somehow overshadowed the quality in importance.  I said to myself, “Self, Damn the word count.  Get the story right, and the word count shall follow.” 
Those are not King’s words – they are mine.  But, he is free to use them. 


  1. Most important thing I TRY to take away from "On Writing" is the fossil analogy, and how you have to CAREFULLY unearth the darn thing. Use to much force (superfluous blablabla) and you destroy the thing.

  2. I agree. I can't believe how fresh the chapter is now. I am afraid the original meaning/purpose was buried underneath all my blah, blah. Now, I have only to do the same thing to the rest of the book...