Word counts are something that I find both liberating and stifling. When you start a piece of work you may have a word count in mind or you might be writing it for something with a strict number you can’t go over.
This can be stifling… If you start a story with the full intention of making it fit into a small word count the last thing you want to find out is that the story is too big. What I mean by that is the subject needs more words. When I started writing I wanted to gallop through any writing that I did, the fastest way from point A to point B was the best way for my story, but now I take my time. What are the characters thinking, feeling, smelling? And as a result my writing has gotten much better. But it does mean that word count can be a bit limiting.
I would love to have a stash of stories in all different word counts just waiting to go out to a competition but the reality is that I usually write the story close to the deadline, then a quick edit and it is gone.
So I start a flash fiction piece and what I end up with is a first paragraph of a larger story. Word count is suddenly very mush an issue.
But the reverse of this is that word count can be liberating. If you know that you have to write a piece of flash fiction or a short story, it means it has to have a certain structure. You can’t use the structure of a novel with a 1000 worded story. This means that you can explore the story itself. I like to think of the stories in terms of time. In a novel you can take a whole lifetime to create a story but in a short piece you might just describe an incident and in flash fiction you are looking at a moment.
I never worry about being under the word count, and my favourite briefs are always those that have a bracket, like 1500 words to 5000 words. That is the story I can get my teeth into because I can write it for the subject and not for the word count.