“I write one page of masterpiece to ninety one pages of shit,” Hemingway confided to F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1934. “I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.”
‘Be vicious, don’t get sentimental about your writing, cut out the crap’ I mutter to myself furiously as the words drop off the page and into cyber nowhereland.
Bye bye lovlies, I tried but in the end I found you substandard. Another time and place, in another form, you could have been mine. We could have had something. But you just couldn’t (or wouldn’t) change for me, so you get the chop.
Sometimes when I’m writing, I’m conscious that I have one eye on the wordcount. And while watching those numbers pile up gives me a sense of satisfaction, my preoccupation with amassing words worries me. What is that satisfaction worth if the words are no good? And how can they be when part of my attention is focused on churning out as many of them as possible?
Lots of writers set themselves wordcount targets. And when you’re struggling to adhere to a timeline, or even get yourself motivated in the first place, they can be invaluable in forcing you to get down to it and work. (If you’re one of those people that needs encouragement or, more accurately, threats to knuckle down, check out Write or Die.)
When embarking on a longer project I tend to use growing wordcounts as encouragement to keep going, but right now I’m worried about the validity of this approach. Surely it’s better to write a 1000 word story where every word sparkles than a 100000 novel that was churned out to satisfy a series of goals?
But in a market where novels remain more marketable than short stories, it’s little wonder that so many people are focused on creating passable behemoths instead of dedicating time to a pithy short piece.
Maybe I’ll set myself a new target this week – not to look at the wordcount once!