At the age of 16, a local editor asked me to share a sports story - a first-person account about a college sports figure I knew.
"Just write until you've told the story," he instructed.
So, I did as told and turned in a 1200-word article about a Nebraska Husker football walk-on.
The editor printed the entire story. Not a single cut, no changes.
Imagine my surprise when my college paper editor demanded I limit my stories to 500 - 700 words.
I would agonize over word choice and details, scrimping on what I wanted to say so my work would be published.
Years later, when a regional publication asked me to cover a 1:1 laptop bootcamp at a local high school, I turned in a 2300 word article. Sure, I knew it was too long, but the information was valuable, informative, and timely. I didn't know what to cut and left it up to my editor. It turned into a two-day feature. Nothing fell victim to his editing pen.
From these examples I gained immeasurable insight about the power of words and how to make each one count.
A word count forces an author to be concise and precise. It makes a writer prioritize which info is vital and which can be cut. Word count makes writing tighter and demands that each word put on paper makes a difference, a lasting impression of a particular subject.
Now, when my weekly newspaper column is due, I know the 500-word piece won't stray from the original intent, won't change the final outcome.
In other words, I turn in a comprehensive view of the subject in the prescribed word count range. I know it's focused. I know it gets to and makes a point.
Word count is critical in any kind of writing. It makes a tighter, cleaner story and gives readers a chance to glean necessary details without wading through a wordy piece.
Word count is a useful tool that makes me a better writer. . . And it can improve your writing, too.
By LuAnn Schindler