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Thread: How long can a YA fantasy be?

  1. #1
    Poe Groupie and Lunchtime Writer nevermore-nightshade's Avatar
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    How long can a YA fantasy be?

    The general rule, as I've heard it from various sources, is that a young adult novel should be in 60-69k range in word count. I've also read that fantasies can usually get away with being longer. Assuming that this novel is a debut, how long, maximum, do you think a YA epic fantasy could be in order for an agent to even consider it?
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  2. #2
    Rewriting My Destiny Cyia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nevermore-nightshade View Post
    The general rule, as I've heard it from various sources, is that a young adult novel should be in 60-69k range in word count.


    I queried at 125, subbed at 108, and the book's currently at 102.

    Plenty of books are longer than that, and I don't just mean Twilight's 118 (Tender Morsels is 130; Beautiful Creatures 140+)

    The word range you've listed is the average for CONTEMPORARY, but even that's not set in stone. The one in my sigline went out at over 80.

  3. #3
    [Insert something witty here] KateSmash's Avatar
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    Aug 2010
    60-70k is usually cited for contemporaries and whatnot, that don't need quit the same level of world building.

    As far as fantasy, most agents say under 100K. But really, the length thing has become increasingly fluid over the last few years. Make it as long as it needs to be, but also make sure every word counts. A tight, polished ms of 140k looks better than word vomit of the same length. And be prepared to cut down regardless.

  4. #4
    I'm a monster. I'm a saint. Missus Akasha's Avatar
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    I know that there are fantasy YA novels out there that are over 100K, but I think that depends on the final word count of your manuscript and if it's a good premise when you're querying. Some literary agents reject manuscripts according to word count alone.

    I think Colleen Lindsay sums it up perfectly in an entire blog post here. This is his advice about word count for YA fantasy below.

    YA fiction = For mainstream YA, anywhere from about 45k to 80k; paranormal YA or YA fantasy can occasionally run as high as 120k but editors would prefer to see them stay below 100k. The second or third in a particularly bestselling series can go even higher. But it shouldn't be word count for the sake of word count.
    I am writing a YA fantasy and I am trying to stay at word count of 70-85K. However, I think you should write what comes to you and then when you're finished, start revising and editing. That should reduce your word count, if you think it's too high.

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  5. #5
    More cowbell! randi.lee's Avatar
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    I'm writing a YA and am trying to keep the word count at 90,000 to avoid the 100+ instant reject. As others have said, staying under 100 might be better, but some do crown around 120-140.
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  6. #6
    Seeing newness all the time kaitlin008's Avatar
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    Dec 2008
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    Epic fantasy tends to be longer, anyway, so I doubt any agent would be too startled to see a query for a 100k+ epic fantasy, even in YA. The important thing is that you use your words well.

  7. #7
    Red fish, blue fish... J.S.F.'s Avatar
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    It also depends on whether you're doing e-publishing or going the traditional route. Traditional can be long i.e. over 110000 but a lot of e-pubs want YA to be around 80000 give or take a few, and some will go up to 100000. What is comes down to is how good the story is, how much needs to be cut, and whether the publisher will go along with something longer. Both of my novels clocked in at around 90000 and 'Threadweaver' which I'm in the process of editing now, will finish at just under 90000.

  8. #8
    50-100K is pretty standard for YA, though there are exceptions. I write fantasy and I personally aim for 60K for a MG novel and 80K for YA. When I was editing my MG/YA for submission, my agent suggested I keep it under 70K as a debut author.

    It really has more to do with the pacing than the word count, though long word counts can get an auto reject if the query doesn't knock the socks off. Mostly because long word counts tend to signal a novel that's not ready and needs more editing. Pair that with a query that is overwritten and it's most likely going to be a "no thanks."

    If the novel is paced well, hooks the reader and keeps them desperate to know what happens next through the entire novel, word count doesn't matter all that much. The longer the novel, the better the query needs to be IMHO, because you want to prove you don't waste a word and can use them effectively. You'd also want to show enough plot to say why you need all those words.

    Longer books cost more money to print, so if you're going for a tradition publishing deal, that's something to consider. Publishers might think twice about spending more on a big book than a smaller one. If they're on the fence about it, a high word count could push you over it.

    I feel it's a good idea to stick with traditional word counts as a first-timer to stand the best chance. No reason to give yourself potential negatives before they even see the story. I'd say keep it under 90K, but I'm sure you'll find plenty who'll give you a different number.


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