Numbers and Creative Writing

What role can numbers play in fiction? In any kind of writing come to that? The obvious roles are:-

1.  Word Counts
Whether you’re writing flash fiction or a standard length short story for a woman’s magazine, word counts are vital. I use Scrivener and love being able to set my word count target and watch a bar change from red to amber to green as I approach my mark but I am geeky like that.
Part way through a writing session and I can see how far I've got to go. Image by Allison Symes

The good thing is I never go over a word count limit as a result. I remember the days of having to count manually, though the old tip of counting the words in one line by the number of lines in a page by the number of pages you have does give a general idea of where you are.

These days, of course, you should be precise and Word works as well for counting (though it doesn’t have a bar changing colour! In fairness, that’s not the only reason I use Scrivener but I like it all the same!).

Numbers play more of a role in creative writing than you might think. Image from Pixabay.

Top Tip: I take off 10 to 15 words from the official word count. Some competitions I enter include the title as part of the word count, others do not. I play safe. Nobody has a 10 to 15 words title (it would be far too much of a mouthful!) but taking that number of words off does mean I always come in under the required limit regardless  of whether the title is part of that limit.

I'm sure we'll soon change the "unwritten" bit for the year, won't we? Pixabay

2.  Publisher Submission Requirements - Numbers in costs and measurements

There is a good reason why publishers want work submitted, say, in Times New Roman, font size 12. It’s not a contrary requirement. They’ve worked out ages ago what works best and it’s down to reducing production costs as much as possible.

It's amazing how many different font sizes there are and what a difference these make to production costs. Image by Pixabay.

Fonts vary in size. Just try using Bookman Old Style in size 12 compared with Calibri (which is what I drafted this piece in) and note the difference. The image below is one I used for a recent Chandler’s Ford Today post where I looked at this topic in more detail. You will literally see what I mean. The bigger the font the more paper you use, the higher the production costs. Far simpler and more cost effective to have an industry standard.

You can see the difference in fonts here, even though all of them are at 12 point. Image by Allison Symes

3. Dates!
Well, they do include numbers and the golden rule of course is to never be late with a submission.

Top Tip:  I take at least a week (and often ten days) from the official competition deadline. Why? So I have time to make final tweaks (there always are some!) yet know I will still submit in time because I will submit that piece on my deadline and not the one the organisers have set.

Good thoughts here but  a useful idea is to set your own deadline ahead of a competition/publishing one. Image from Pixabay.

Oh and I do practice what I preach. I set my deadline for getting this piece ready for More Than Writers for mid-January though it is not due to appear until now, the 29th!

Give yourself plenty of time ahead of any deadlines. Pixabay.


  1. That's really interesting! I have never heard of Scrivener but it sounds right up my street. I am also quite geeky.


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