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:
- 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.
- 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!
- Start by cutting out small words like "but" and "that" and all "-ly" like "really" and "actually."
- 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.