Thursday, 15 August 2013

500 words on word count.

I asked twitter if one could actually write 500 words on word count and got about 5 replies which made me think I’m going to have to do this thing, write a piece of that length without hesitation  deviation or repetition, and as @MissMillicent said it should be in the style of Just A Minute.

Here goes:

So, what is a “word count” and why is it such a tough master ? Is it that hard to get around? Two eminent journalists – Isabel Hardman ofthe Spectator and Dan Hodges of the Telegraph both talked about the superfluousness of “that” – a word that doesn’t seem to offer much use in the vast majority of sentences it is used in, when it comes to analysis, so it just has to be removed. The son of Glenda Jackson repeated however “no matter how many times I remove it the little bugger always sneaks right back in”.

At school, I always thought I was quite well blessed on the ability to hit a word count, and at one time, inflated by ego, thought I could do it automatically. This isn’t so, as much more screeds have been composed by me in the intervening period where I have struggled with the word count – more going over it than having to fill it, if I am perfectly honest.

When faced with 700 of your most passionate words and the necessity to have to cut 200 of them, especially if you are trying to get across an novel idea, or persuade and educate your audience, every word appears very precious and you become a kind of Gollum figure, will this sentence lose it’s meaning too much if you lost the  beautiful phrase with which you are exceeding your limit?

And then self-doubt sets in – as brevity is more or less always better than long-winded prose – is it really so valid what you’re saying at all? This lack of confidence must be avoided and it’s better to go back to thinking all of your mots are most definitely bon…..

But what if you are under limit? A case that is confronting me, as I regret saying 500 words at the outset of this challenge and wonder how I can find another 125 – the Word “Word Count” feature must be one of it’s most tortuous aspects, especially now it is in the lower left hand corner, like a small aggravating playmate at school “you can’t do it”, it chants as you eke out more and more description to locate the finish line.

As the iron bands of a word count exert their pressure as you get closer and closer, one reflects on the self-discipline of being able to bring all your thoughts under control within a frame imposed, it seems, at random.

If we didn’t have word counts, our readers would be bored, and in times of yore, the words wouldn’t have been printed. So all hail the word count, saviour of writers the whole world wide! 

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