Each day. Every day.
We live in a 24/7/365 world. Each of our daily 1400 minutes is spoken for before we start our day. Nobody has an extra minute of attention to give to anyone who doesn’t give back something of equal value.
Great writers practice the art of making each word count.
This doesn’t mean we need to shrink the number of words in a piece. It means we use the number of words we need to make our point.
Take Medium for example
Medium assigns a reading time to each story. I’ve read 16-minute stories that left me wishing for 16 more minutes. I’ve read 2-minute stories that had me waiting for the end.
Neither of those experiences had anything to do with the content of the writing, but with the words used to create the story.
I love reading. I follow a diverse group of writers. They all write well. Their topics are engaging, their voices resonate with truth and they use the number of words they need to tell their story.
I like that. I’m not in a hurry to consume as much content as I can in the shortest amount of time possible. If I’m reading a love story set by the banks of a slowly flowing river in Louisiana, I expect a certain pace and a usage of words that support that story.
If I’m reading a critical analysis of the latest bitcoin mining scheme, I expect the tone of that piece to be suited to that subject.
Great writers make decisions as how best to serve their readers
Here are a few things to consider when making each word count.
- Did you tell the story in the right amount of detail that your reader will understand your point? If yes, publish. If no, add some words or take some away.
- When reading your writing out loud, do your pauses for breath sync up with the words you’re reading? If yes, publish. If no, add some words or take some away.
- When you read your final edit, do you lose your train of thought in the middle of a paragraph? If yes, publish. If no, add some words or take some away.
There’s a theme to that set of tips. When you write, your ideas are pouring out at the speed you type. Reading is at a different speed altogether.
The words that come from your mind, fly down your arms and out your fingertips are each important. Your mind is creating a picture of what you want your point to be.
Sometimes the thoughts tumble over each other. They wind up on your page in a jumbled order. Not each time for sure. But often enough that you need to make sure the words on the page are telling the same story you’re hearing in your head.
You can’t guess how each reader is going to interpret your words, but you can make your ideas flow for the majority of them. That’s your job. Taking the ideas you have and presenting them in a way that makes readers nod their heads in understanding.
We always have the opportunity to use as many words as we want
There’s no rule that says we must use more or fewer words than we need.
For instance, sometimes you need this to tell your story:
Jim Renard, master baker to the Queen’s royal guards, felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up at attention. A queasy feeling of fear and shame ran through his guts and he doubled his fists in an effort to control his anguish.
He’d not seen Penelope since the great fire had made his oven explode last Whitsunday. His memory was etched with each detail of her scorched face. His nightmares were filled with the sound of her tortured screams of pain.
Renard’s trembling fingers reached out to grasp the knurled knob of the hospital ward door and instinctively he drew in a shuddering breath. Steeling himself against the sight of her ruined face, he turned the knob slowly and heard the leather hinges creak as the door inched open.
Sometimes you need this:
Jim nervously opened the door of the burn ward where Penelope was recuperating.
Great writers make each word count. You’re sharing your ideas and it’s the sharing part that is most important. You already understand what you’re saying; it’s your job to make sure each of you readers understands too.