Word counts: longer or shorter; high word count, or low.

In the latest in our series on writing, we look at the tricky question of ‘how long should my writing be?’

Writers’ Ways 6 asked:

‘As you set off down the road of writing, you need to decide which way to go. Are you writing factually about yourself or matters you have knowledge of? Are you making up a story, possibly developed from areas and people you have met in your life? Are you interested in fantasy, maybe fairy stories, science fiction, or a magical world?’ (Word count: 61)

The question could simply have been:

Will you write Fact, Fiction, or Fantasy? (Word count: 7)

The question poised in Writers’ Ways 1 was:

“Why do we write?” (Word count: 4). This question could have been expressed in other ways, for example: “Have you really asked yourself why any of us write, and what is the point of going to the effort of writing at all?” (Word count: 24). As these examples show, we need to decide:

What is the ideal word count?

Let’s look at a more quotidian, fun, conversation:

‘The weather today was beautiful.’ (Word count: 5)

Or

‘Today, a Monday in mid-January, was just so beautiful after days of drab fog to see the sun and feel the crispness in the air was so refreshing and perfect for a walk beside the sea.’ (Word count: 37)

37 words describes the day, and adds context to the statement. Yet, 5 words conveys the same idea. One needs to consider whether 37 words are necessary when 5 could be thought adequate.

What are you actually trying to say?

Sunrise to Sunset

Bearing our beautiful day in mind, it reminds me of a further ‘Knot of Wood’.

Sunrise to Sunset Knot

©Christine Hawthorne 2010

Sunrise to Sunset {The Ends of The Day} poem

©Christine Hawthorne 2010

Daily sunrises, and sunsets

As daily events, we get up and we go to bed. For the majority of people, this would be around the times of sunrise and sunset. The memories that follow are personal, memories instilled in my mind forever.

1957: Guide Camp So, whose sense of humour was it? Woken up in the middle of the night; ordered to get out of camp without being seen; to take full hiking gear; follow the instructions given; find breakfast; light a fire and cook what we found. Each patrol. No problem. We had a good leader. When it came, the morning that was one of damp dew, and grey sunrise, which we could cope with easily. But breakfast, found up a tree, was fishcakes! What happened to the sausages and bacon?

1961: First trip out of the UK After a childhood looking at ‘abroad’ from the cliffs of Dover, I was eventually introduced to a taste of ‘abroad’. At fifteen, I discovered what overseas travel could be like, and found it all just so exciting. However, the morning we left the Eifel, in Germany, to come home was the most stunning and wonderful part. I was taken by car to the pick-up point, through beautiful countryside, as the dawn was breaking and the whole scene was magical. Pure magic. The mist rising off the fields. Gossamer diamonds in among the grass and hedgerows, as the first rays of sun caught the dew, was simply breathtaking in its beauty, a vision in my memory to summarise the event forever.

1966: Crossing from Narvik to the UK. The sailors could not believe it. We’d been allowed to hitch a lift on their cargo boat. Luckily, the sea was like a mill-pond and this particular evening, for quite a long while, the entire sky and sea were red. The bright red found when cutting into a blood-orange. Spectacular. Some weeks later, I showed a photo of it to my old school friend. ‘It’s a bit like this,’ she said, showing me one of her photos. ‘Where were you?’ I asked. ‘Stavanger.’ I guess the whole of the Norwegian coast, and probably the UK, saw that sunset too. The spectrum of colours, beyond a paintbox-full. Vibrant yellows, oranges, reds. Delicate pinks, mauve, and aquamarine. Icy blues, turquoise, and greens.

1990s: Opal Coast, Northern France (between Calais & Boulogne). There are too many occasions to mention. I recall two vivid memories of sunrise and sunset in that area. This time, I turned to the paint box to recorded both the sunrising on the hills behind the coast and the setting sun going down behind the horizon, looking out over the channel from France.

Sunrise to Sunset {The Ends of The Day} ©Christine Hawthorne

Such perfect, perfect peace

For Pondering this week:

  • Think about your writing. Does short and to the point suit you? Or do you prefer your writing to be detailed?
  • Think about your reader. Will they be able to follow your thinking with a succinct snippet? Or do you need more space to convey your ideas?

Time to ponder.