The Problem with Word Limits (plus a consideration of a future piece)

For one of my final pieces during my first year of uni, we were given a very brief… well, brief for a story. It was so brief a brief that we were literally asked to “write an original piece of prose” and given a 2500 word limit. Now, it’s not that I had a problem with the lack of specific instruction on the piece as it allowed for all of us to write about exactly what we wanted, but after speaking with many of my peers I realised that the word count was what held a lot of people back.

It’s not that I don’t understand the idea behind the word limits–they’re implemented in order to assess whether or not you can write successfully under certain constraints. However, in the creative writing field not everyone has a style which lends itself to such constraints, so while it works for essays and other more academic subjects, they’re more of a huge pain for many of us in the creative field, myself included.

Although I’m not complaining about my grade for the piece (it was the highest grade I’d gotten all year, a First), it’s just something I wouldn’t use for anything else unless I heavily edited it. The ending was dreadfully cramped and this left me and others who read it incredibly dissatisfied. Yes, I can easily change and rewrite it and all but it’s the initial upset that bothers many people, and that in itself can deter someone from writing potentially amazing story after the word count constraints have been lifted from the piece.

Anyway, apologies for the short rant. It came about from the idea that I will use the aforementioned story for a novella, changing the basis of the story slightly… However I don’t know whether or not I should post the piece itself as well.

I shall consider further.

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