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I’ve started freelance writing for Textbroker. Textbroker is a website that facilitates clients that need articles written with writers and vice versa. Once you register with them you can start choosing and writing articles. The articles available are organized by pay rate, deadline, and number of words. That last criteria, number of words, has been a new learning experience for me and the subject of this post.

It’s not that I haven’t put myself through timed deadlines and word count goals before.  A couple of months ago I was heavily using the Write or Die desktop application. Most of the time I aimed for 1000 words in 45 minutes. These are great writing exercises and definitely get you writing, which is the whole idea. It teaches you to stop self editing so damn much while writing. But this only helps improve your writing only to a certain point. You can become prolific in spitting out words quite quickly, but if there is no aim at something concrete, you won’t get that good. This is why NaNoWriMo, a once a year goal of writing a 50,000 word novel, won’t produce that many great novels.

There’s also a big difference between aiming for a topic-free, word count goal and a specific topic with a word count goal. It’s obvious now stating it, but following specific instructions for a specific topic with a number a words to write is making me realize that I have a whole lot to learn about this.

Usually when I decide to write about something here my goal is very general. The goal is to write as much as I need to in order to feel understood. That’s too general and ambiguous, but I has worked out for me for most of the long formish stuff.  Writing articles for Textbroker though has been a weird experience. Sometimes it feels like they’re asking me to write 1000 words on a coffee cup. It’s certainly doable, but describing a coffee cup, where it’s made, what it’s made of, etc., will probably only take a couple of sentences, perhaps some paragraphs. It’s just impossible to write so much without stuffing it with crap.

I’m exaggerating with the 1000 word coffee cup example, but the point is that some topics don’t merit that many words in order to be good and informative. There’s this idea that long form is equal to seriousness and quality, but that is very far from the truth.

This is obviously a new learning experience for me and through time I’ll get better at it.

Takeaway Lesson 1: Aiming for a word count goal will only give you a lot of words. That’s it. That’s only 25% of writing. The rest is editing.

Takeaway Lesson 2: If asked for 300 words, shoot for 500.