Make It Word Count

If you’re an aspiring author like me, eventually two words are going to cross your path if they haven’t already: word count.

If you’re really new to this biz, you may still be telling people about how many pages your book is. And that probably works better for friends and family. But all that agents, editors, and publishers want to hear about is word count.

Why? Because you might be writing in Courier, Times New Roman, Squiggly Wiggly (please don’t), but the one thing that stays uniform across the board is word count. How many words have you crammed into that Word Document that is your novel? But more importantly, how many should you have crammed in there?

As is with a lot of things in the writing world, the answer is it depends. It depends on your genre, your age range, and whether or not you’re JK Rowling or Plain Tryingtagetpublished Jane. But is there any kind of guide for how many words a novel should be?

According to Writer’s Digest, this is a typical guide for novel lengths:

Adult: Commercial & Literary ~80,000-89,000 (for you newbies, if you have it double-spaced with Times New Roman, this will be around 300 pgs, depending on your formatting)

Sci-Fi/Fantasy ~100,000-115,000 although lean toward the short end of that figure

Middle Grade ~20,000-50,000 depending on age range

YA (they say the most flexible of ranges) 55,000 – 69,999 although the trend is getting closer to the top of the 80Ks for the max. Again this depends on genre, story, etc.

Picture Books ~500-600


The thing is you can’t use other authors to argue the length of your book because 99% of the time your arguments are invalid. Especially if the author in questions is 1) super famous, or 2) wrote something a long, long time ago. When you’re a household name, you can write a 160,000 word book because odds are your name is the money-maker the publishing world sees (although for your reader’s sake, please don’t).

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The NaNo Beginneth

I know I’m a little late to the posting game, but what can I say, I’ve been busy. And part of that has been busy writing away. If the first day is any indication, I don’t think I’ll have trouble reaching 50,000 words in one month. Of course, I don’t necessarily have a complete plot either, so if I reach the end of what I’ve got and haven’t connected the dots trouble may then ensue.

Until then, I’m enjoying it.

It’s really, really hard not to go back and edit what I’ve written. I’ve been considering adding comments to the side of the document of things I need to fix later. I think that can satisfy the internal editor enough to keep it at bay.

But I’ve already made my goal for the day and I’ve still got some good juice left in me, so I’m going to keep going. I’ve noticed the little widget I have on the blog seems to update instantly, so it’s been fun to update my progress and know it’s being displayed. It’s a real sense of accomplishment. Hopefully all this motivation will hold through the 30th.

I have one chapter finished, and I’m thinking I’ll excerpt a little bit from this for WIPpet Wednesdays. Of course, it may be that I’m being too ambitious. We’ll see.

How are all you NaNoers doing? What are you doing reading? Go write, write, write! Let’s dominate this November!


A Short, But Helpful Post

Okay peeps, I’m still doing some San Fran recovery and getting back onto a blogging schedule, etc. But I won’t leave you without something useful. So here is that something.

It’s called Word to Pages. Why is that so interesting? So glad you asked. Have a contest you’re eying, but not a good guesser at how many words equals how many pages in your world? Well, look no further than Words to Pages.

You can select single, 1.5, double-spaced and the font and the size and it will give you an approximation of how many pages that is.

Now it isn’t perfect. Especially for those of you dialogue happy or short sentence/short paragraph writers. But it at least gives you a ballpark estimate of what to expect. If you tend to have a lot of paragraphs, I’d probably take Word to Pages‘ estimate and go a little lower.

Now you have a helpful tool at your disposal.

Going Cold, Then Going Bold

Welcome to part 2 of the How to Edit Your Book series, Going Cold, Then Going Bold. For some of you this next part will be easy. For others, perhaps a little more difficult, but either way it’s an important part of the process.


jae scribbles carboniteBack in October 2012 I finished up with some major revamps with SHADE and decided it was time to put it into cold storage. What this means is you lock it in a drawer (physical or digital) and leave it alone, untouched. For a full manuscript, I’d recommend a month if at all possible. You can use that time to get in some reading—very important to increasing your writing skills. Or you could work on short stories, another project, or try tackling the always looming query letter. Never hurts to get an early start on these things.

The reason why you want to leave it alone is the longer you’re away from your project the more clear any errors and plot holes will become when you start editing it again. While writing the vision of your world is clear as crystal in your head, but not always that clear on paper. Getting away will help your vision tell you how well of an accounting you made on paper.


Once you’ve given it awhile to chill, time to pull it back out and get ready to hack and slash. At this point I wouldn’t send it to beta readers or friends because you want to give them the strongest manuscript possible so they’re looking at a project cleared of errors you’ve already been able to spot. There are a number of ways you can do this. Here’s the way I get it done.

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All Apologies

I know, I was totally absent from the blogosphere yesterday. Remembered the dreaded cold I blogged about. It struck me down. Seriously, it was all I could do work on SHADE before having to find some medicine and lie down for another nap. Not that I don’t like naps, mind you, just not the kind a cold forces you to take. I’ve got Pitch Wars to get ready for, for crying out loud! Can’t I be sick next month?

So no Friday Flix this week. I was looking forward to talking about the Hobbit, too, since I finally went and saw it. I’ll just say this. It’s long, but Martin Freeman makes it all worthwhile. Details perhaps next week. I’ll do my best to spend the rest of today catching up on your blogs and seeing what you’ve been up to while I’ve been slacking.

Pitch Wars goes live with the agent round next week, on the 23rd. This is where we get requests for more or…or go for ice cream. 😉 Whatever happens, I know SHADE is a much better story than it was before PW, and I got a fabulous mentor in Marieke. But I think we have a pretty slamming pitch, so I’m fairly optimistic about next week. I’m just finishing up final edits and scene rewrites with SHADE, which must happen this weekend. I know what I’ll be doing all the rest of today and tomorrow. I’ll probably spend Monday and Tuesday doing a little polishing, and let’s face it, Wednesday and however long before I have to ship it off to anyone—but that’s what perfectionists do.

But even with possible representation, I don’t doubt more suggestions for improvement will come. That’s a writers life, at least from what I hear from those who are the business. But we should take it as a compliment that they want to help our story be even better. After all, we’re in this to tell great stories, aren’t we? Stories so well told we’re pleasing readers across the globe who will be back for more.

I’ll update you on Monday with progress and any lessons learned. Cheers!

Me all weekend… I can do this!