Friday, October 10, 2008

Writing Math

I am the original carrier of math anxiety.
I am thankful the writing life doesn't involve equations and angles and computations. The only thing I learned from my math classes is how to spell math words.
One numerical function I can't get away from as both a writer and an editor? The oh-so dreaded word count.
After traveling the writing road for so many years, I don't mind a word count. As an editor, I live by a word count. I only have so many pages, so much space in Connections, the MOPS leadership magazine I edit. And some of that space has to be handed over to the graphic designer.
Earlier this week I helped a friend of mine write her very first magazine article. She's a funny, articulate writer. I showed her the writers guidelines for the magazine she wanted to submit to--complete with article word count. She sent me an article 100+ words over the limit. I then told her to cut the article by 250 words.
I could hear her gasp of shock across the internet.
She began bartering with me back and forth, begging for extra words. I gently, but firmly, told her that she could do it, admitting that I was an Evil Editor.
And you know what?
She did it.
And you can too.
Word counts in writers guidelines aren't optional-if-you-feel-like-it-submit-an-article-with-this-many-words limits. Word counts exist because magazines are made up of pages and columns and photos and ads. There is only so much space. Want your article to have a better chance of getting accepted by an editor? Write well and hit the word count. Don't make an editor do your work for you.

Here's a few tips for hitting your word count:

  1. Know what your word count is. I know, sounds obvious. Some writers don't check a magazine's writers guidelines online or in Writers Market or Sally Stuart's Christian Writers' Market Guide.
  2. Here's a rule I live by: No sentence longer than 20 words. Any sentence longer than 20 words can usually be broken down into two sentences or it has unneeded words in it. Okay--that last sentence has 22 words. I'll rewrite it: If a sentence has more than 20 words, break it into two sentences. Cut unneeded words. Ta Da!
  3. Start by cutting out small words like "but" and "that" and all "-ly" like "really" and "actually."
  4. Look for redundant ideas. If you're writing an 800 word article, you don't have the word count to say the same thing three times.


Evangeline Denmark said...

Ouch! I'm being stretched. Stop it! I don't like it. Wait a minute. I do like it. It's makes my writing better. Thanks Evil Editor Beth. You're the best!

Evangeline Denmark said...

Apparently I even need an editor when I comment on a blog since I can't manage to say "It" instead of "It's."

Beth K. Vogt said...

Kudos for catching your typo. You should have left it and waited to see if the Evil Editor caught it!