PDA

View Full Version : Word Counts



IkhlasHussain
01-18-2013, 01:33 AM
So I recently read the following blog post yesterday and it sort of got me in a tizzy: http://theswivet.blogspot.ca/2008/03/on-word-counts-and-novel-length.html

It's about word counts and how anything over 100k sends a warning flag to a potential agent, especially if you're a debut author.

I had heard this before, but this article makes it sound much more serious than I ever thought it was. So I'm curious to know if any agents on this thread have ever rejected a query simply because of the word count, or if anyone has had requests for further editing before the agent considers it again.

I've edited my MS several times and thought it was as polished it could be (it's at 113k, was a little longer before), and am just getting myself geared up to head back for more editing. Should I actually aim for 100k on the dot or will 105 be ok?

Any thoughts or comments on this would be much appreciated. :) Thanks.

katci13
01-18-2013, 01:50 AM
Don't panic. ^_^
It really depends on your genre and there's always the stray that gets by irregardless, but I think 105,000 words would be fine. If they like your concept and your writing is awesome and they are entertained, that won't stop them from reading more. If they want you to cut more after that, they will let you know. I'm sure there are some that auto reject for being too long, but there are plenty that don't.

The most important thing is for your story to be the best you can make it.

quicklime
01-18-2013, 01:51 AM
i don't think, unless you go well over, it is an auto-reject. What's "well over? I'd guess between say 25 and 40% over, depending on agent, mood, and the bit below:

It (a higher but not insanely higher word count) is just a large red flag, and those flags not only count directly, but they don't exist in a vacuum--have a 110K thriller, and sure it is a bit long--write a query that blows them away with your mastery of language, and that's fine. write one that's 300 words, and probably has 100 words worth of meat, and the 110K looks much, much worse. So the question is in part how much "bad karma" you can afford to shoulder.

Zombie Kat
01-18-2013, 01:52 AM
I wouldn't worry too much - if the story needs a bit more than 100k, then that's what it needs. It's only a bad thing when the highish word count is indicative of a general tendency towards rambling.

And 105k isn't so high that (in my humble opinion) you're going to get rejected solely based on word count. If your query and sample pages are gripping, then you'll be fine.

Old Hack
01-18-2013, 02:03 AM
105k is probably fine.

When I was an editor I routinely rejected submissions for books which were significantly over or below our preferred word-count. They would have been uneconomic for us to publish at such lengths, and the editing they would have required to bring them to a more acceptable length would also have been uneconomic.

IkhlasHussain
01-18-2013, 02:16 AM
Thank you everyone for your replies! I actually have a certificate in creative publishing (which I got before I realised I'd much rather focus on my own writing), and so I do know the economical/business reasons of why lengthy word counts are tricky.

But then, on the writer side of things, it's so hard to edit, especially since it feels like you're sawing off a part of your body (I'm sure many of you can relate).

My MS is a multicultural women's fiction novel, which can also fall under commercial/mainstream fiction. 105k sounds more doable than 100k.

Thanks everyone!

quicklime
01-18-2013, 04:08 AM
But then, on the writer side of things, it's so hard to edit, especially since it feels like you're sawing off a part of your body (I'm sure many of you can relate).



not at all, actually. I have no issue with fixing what needs fixing, and if that includes editing I've never lost sleep on it.

mellymel
01-18-2013, 04:42 AM
I think the reason that agents are often hesitant with the bigger word count from debut authors is because MOST times, it comes down to the fact that their writing is too wordy (sentences are not tight, extraneous words, repeated thoughts over and over again, unnecessary details/descriptions, etc.). Not saying yours is, just that, from what I know, this seems to be the case a lot of the time. My first novel was 140K. My second one 88, my third 82, and my most recent 81 (which was 91 when I finished the first draft). I've learned a lot since I started writing and one of my major improvements is in learning to tell the same story in less words, thus making the pacing stronger, and hopefully, the reader more engaged. Though, one can easily be sucked in to much longer novels.

And I do write YA, so what's considered "acceptable" may be different than adult novels. Usually, the higher word count (at least in YA) is more acceptable in the Fantasy/sci-fi genres.

HTH. GL!

Oh, and as a little aside: fiction novel is redundant :D

Little Ming
01-18-2013, 05:06 AM
But then, on the writer side of things, it's so hard to edit, especially since it feels like you're sawing off a part of your body (I'm sure many of you can relate).


Unless that part of your body is covered in gangrene. ;)

But I've never liked comparing my writing to something personal, like my body or a "baby." If I'm writing something to be commercially published than it's a product. A product that will rejected, rejected, edited, reedited, still rejected, edited again, cut, burned, dashed and slashed. And that's before it gets published. Wait til the reviewers get to it. :tongue

Little Ming
01-18-2013, 05:09 AM
Oh, and as a little aside: fiction novel is redundant :D

I think "women's fiction" is the genre. Kinda like "science fiction."

IkhlasHussain
01-18-2013, 05:12 AM
Yes, that's exactly what I was trying to say!


I think "women's fiction" is the genre. Kinda like "science fiction."

IkhlasHussain
01-18-2013, 05:15 AM
Unless that part of your body is covered in gangrene. ;)

But I've never liked comparing my writing to something personal, like my body or a "baby." If I'm writing something to be commercially published than it's a product. A product that will rejected, rejected, edited, reedited, still rejected, edited again, cut, burned, dashed and slashed. And that's before it gets published. Wait til the reviewers get to it. :tongue

Lol, I guess it's just me then? I don't know, I find it difficult to edit, especially since I've done a round of edits and have changed as much as I think I possibly can only to realise that in order to cut down even more, I'll have to cut out some of my favourite scenes. Which really sucks.

And I agree with you, it is a product, but when I write it, at least the first few drafts, I'm not writing for anyone but myself. I'm not writing the story because I think it'll a great hit, but because it's a story worth telling for me. After I'm done writing it though, I do have to think about it in commercial terms, and I guess that's the part I have hardest time with it, since it seems like a struggle between commercialism and the story. That's why it's not easy. -_-

Cyia
01-18-2013, 05:25 AM
Don't worry about it. If my 127K monster didn't scare anyone off, 105K should be a cake walk.

mellymel
01-18-2013, 05:46 AM
Just wondering if you've ever had a beta reader for your novel? Not saying you have to, and a lot of people don't use them, which is totally fine, but it's a great way for someone to point out ways that you could tighten. It wouldn't even have to be the whole novel. You could ask someone if they'd just read the first X amount of chapters and tell them you are specifically looking for ways/suggestions to cut or tighten. Sometimes it helps to have an outside set of eyes who isn't as attached to the work (and therefore doesn't feel like they're sawing off their arm, which I TOTALLY know the feeling of), and can show you ways you could cut that you couldn't see yourself.

I've had times when a beta reader took out anything from a word to an entire chapter of one of my novels and as much as it hurt and I cried, but...but...BUT THAT HAS TO BE THERE I CAN'T POSSIBLY TAKE THAT OUT IT WILL CHANGE THE...WHOLE...STOR--...wait a minute. OMG THAT SOUNDS SO MUCH BETTER yippeeeeeeeeee. :D

Well, that has been my experience. LOL

Of course, you can feel free to change NOTHING and try querying it to a handful of agents and see what happens. Perhaps it's not even an issue. ;)

IkhlasHussain
01-18-2013, 05:56 AM
Just wondering if you've ever had a beta reader for your novel? Not saying you have to, and a lot of people don't use them, which is totally fine, but it's a great way for someone to point out ways that you could tighten. It wouldn't even have to be the whole novel. You could ask someone if they'd just read the first X amount of chapters and tell them you are specifically looking for ways/suggestions to cut or tighten. Sometimes it helps to have an outside set of eyes who isn't as attached to the work (and therefore doesn't feel like they're sawing off their arm, which I TOTALLY know the feeling of), and can show you ways you could cut that you couldn't see yourself.

I've had times when a beta reader took out anything from a word to an entire chapter of one of my novels and as much as it hurt and I cried, but...but...BUT THAT HAS TO BE THERE I CAN'T POSSIBLY TAKE THAT OUT IT WILL CHANGE THE...WHOLE...STOR--...wait a minute. OMG THAT SOUNDS SO MUCH BETTER yippeeeeeeeeee. :D

Well, that has been my experience. LOL

Of course, you can feel free to change NOTHING and try querying it to a handful of agents and see what happens. Perhaps it's not even an issue. ;)

Well I'm glad I'm not the only one who's ever felt physical pain through the editing process! Lol. I was starting to think I was even more of an anomaly! -_-

And yes, I've had a beta reader, but she said she didn't see any problems with pacing. I've currently just found a second beta reader, so here's hoping she can help. Having a second pair of eyes is definitely a big help, I've found in the past, because, like you said, sometimes it takes someone else to point out the problems we can't see.

Thanks for your response :)

IkhlasHussain
01-18-2013, 05:59 AM
Don't worry about it. If my 127K monster didn't scare anyone off, 105K should be a cake walk.

Thanks for that piece of info!