Does word count really count?

Hello friends!

In all my musings on writing and publishing, I feel the need to clarify a point: I do not think of myself as an expert. If I was an expert, I would have a published novel right now, yes? But I will admit that I am far more knowledable on the subject than your average person. So while I wouldn't go toot my own horn to someone like, oh I don't know, Kathyrn Stockett (stop reading this and go buy her book The Help right now...but come back to me when you're done, k?), I would say that this Bundle is a good source for those writers who are just starting out and need a bit of advice on how to navigate this world.

On that note, let's jump right in!

I've been reading through a dozen agent blogs over the past few weeks and I keep trying to find someone who is THE source for word count. There are hundreds of rules about hundreds of genres, so after I figured out exactly what my genre was (women's fiction...not chick lit...they are actually different things...think Kristin Hannah vs. Emily Giffin) I went searching for the "correct" word count.

Let me just save you the trouble of wondering. There isn't one.

All in all, most agents (as well as publishers, authors, etc.) agree that your average novel should be anywhere between 70,000-100,000 words. Once you start tipping over into the 110,000-120,000 arena, you've gone a bit overboard...that is unless you're extremely famous and have a huge fan base and can do whatever you want (i.e. J.K. Rowling)...or if you're writing some sort of historical epic. My first novel, the one I never finished, is hovering somewhere around 115,000, which is way too long for  the story I'm trying to tell, especially if I'm not even done with it yet. My newest novel, the one that is complete, is perched quite happily on its word count of 60,000. It's a little shorter than I'd like, which is strange for me because...well, I don't know if you noticed...I like to talk. I love details and I adore following pages into the history of a character. I rambled too much in my first novel. In this one, I was so excited about it that I rushed to the finish line (it was 50,000 words before I started editing...much too short) without allowing the reader to find out who these people were. I'm still working on it. In my readings I have found that most agents won't send you a rejection simply because the book is too short (or long...though they can and they have) because if it's a story they want to read, it's workable and during the editing process it can be lengthened/shortened; however, I do not want to take that risk because agents have tons of queries to read so they want to find any reason to say "no" and move on to the next person. Word count could be that I'm trying to make sure that it is not an issue with my novel.

Rules vary from genre to genre and person to person. I just want to give you a general idea of what to expect if you're trying to write a book. Young adult novels are typically shorter. I've seen anywhere from 35,000-70,000 word counts, but many of them tend to be longer. Nicholas Sparks' The Notebook (I like using him as an example because his website has so much detail about his early career) is not YA and it was only 52,000 words, which is extremely short. But his characters, his plot, and his story were all there. I think word count depends on the type of story you want to tell.

If you send out an amazing query letter, chances are someone will pick you up, no matter the word count. The most important thing is to know your audience and know your story.

Until next time!


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