The Word Count Discussion


I thought I’d spend my time today talking about something pretty important that, as of yet, has not been tackled on this blog.

Word Count!

Word count is a tricky thing, in that it can be encouraging and completely daunting all at once. But first let’s talk about some basic rules of thumb for word count.

So, what’s a good word count for a novel? I wish I could give you a nice, tidy graph of exactly how long your work should be, but of course it’s not that simple.

Wikipedia (I know, I know) says that a novel is anything over 40,000 words. National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) sets a goal of 50,000 words. And most small presses seem to agree that 80,000-100,000 words for a debut novel is best.

I don’t want to excluded any one’s writing here, so here’s a rough guide for other forms of writing, as according to Wikipedia:

Novel = 40,000+
Novella = 17,500-40,000
Novelette = 7,500-17,500
Short Story =  0-7,500

If you want to talk Microfiction, it can vary completely on where you’re submitting. Personally, I think Microfiction is anything under 1,000 words, but magazines have categories like ‘Flash Fiction’, ‘Microfiction’, and ‘Short Stories’, all with separate requisites. So, try and find a magazine that fits your work, not the other way around.

Now, if you’re writing YA Fiction, your word counts will be slightly less than that of an adult novel. Don’t let this daunt you though, remember that Harry Potter was rejected due to length.

What I find really interesting is, when I Google ‘word count’, all I see are posts from writers whose word counts are too high. Numbers like 135,000 all the way to over 200,000 are pretty common.

Those numbers are absolutely staggering! The longest thing I’ve ever written is currently at 24,000 words and is over halfway done with the rough draft. That puts it at less than 50,000 words by completion. Then take into account editing, which almost always lowers word count as you cut out the unnecessary, and I’ve got one tiny book.

Which is why I haven’t written anything for it in several months.

I let word count concerns keep me from writing my book. I was obsessing over it. Every time I sat down to write, my eyes kept wandering to see how many words I’d written. If I’d been working for two hours, but hadn’t written 1,000 words, I’d start berating myself for not writing better.

And so the novel sits, abandoned on my laptop. Not quite abandoned in my brain, because Kevin Foxx is still very much alive in my mind, but still, he’s neglected.

Then this new idea hit me, Val’s story. I started writing, emphatically. I couldn’t get my fingers to type fast enough. And then, chapter 5 really threw me for a loop. I fought with it, and fought with it. But, I refused to give up. I told myself that the chapter was NOT allowed to end until it was over 2,000 words. And I did it!

But, it’s only 2,009 words, and suddenly the nagging worry that my writing was failing hit me. I started to fret, out loud, that I would never be able to write a full fledged novel.

Thankfully my Fiance was sitting at the computer desk playing Runescape while watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, and paused his show to look at me.

“Just write the book,” he said.

I was floored. It was so simple! Just write the book! You’ll never know how long it will be if you let word count worries keep you from writing. And so I’m taking his advice. I’m just writing the book.

But, I have made a commitment to each chapter, that they will be at least 2,000 words. Because, really, anything less is only part of the story.

And so, for a sense of conclusion, let me say this. Word Count IS important. It’s EXTREMELY important. But not until the first draft is done. Worry about word count when it’s time to trim. Or in my case, add.

Anyway, it’s ridiculously sunny out right now, and all I truly want to do is sit on the patio of my Starbucks and read The Well of Ascension.

So, that’s what I’m gonna do. Have a great day Blogland,



1 thought on “The Word Count Discussion”

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