How do you know how long your manuscript will be?

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JJNotAbrams

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Usually I try to set a number. 80K for example. No matter what, I try to get to that number as much as I can. A lot of the time, the plot requires me to write even more than 80K and that means I have to adjust. But, for me, the initial number is what counts.
 

jonxihama

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It's refreshing to hear that just about everyone is a little different. I don't have a lot of manuscripts under my belt so perhaps I'll get better at predicting length the more I write.
 

Undercover

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My sweet spot is 50K. Whether I want it to be YA or MG, I know I can sell a book in both categories on this word count. I usually know the ending halfway through and have to come up with scenes to extend it to that number. I can easily close it out earlier, it's all in expanding the plot between this and that. I'm a panster and always have been and have had issues with running short in the past.

Someone else here said practice helps. And for me it helps a lot. I've written 11 books that are around 50 to 60K. Most first drafts are 55K. I always worry about getting to 50 but I usually wind up surpassing it because I'm so conditioned now.
 

NickyRainbow

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Overplanning! I plot everything in detail before I even start to write, so I already know how many chapters I'll end up with and what will happen in each one. I'm an overwriter too, so word count-wise, I usually have to keep a max limit in mind as regards what I can get away with in my genre, and then work out roughly how much I need to allocate to each chapter. I know full well that I'll hit or go over that limit on the first draft, and then it's all about ruthless editing to chop the thing way down.
 

Magoo0214

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For me, it's just experience. My big blobs of story finish up, after revision, at between 110K and 135K - this has been consistent over numerous books.

Whew. Read a few" how to" writing books which mention 90K normal limit for crime novels. Before putting any words to my first novel. After my first draft i'm at 131K. I got there because I felt each scene i wrote should result from the previous one and hint at the next scene.. Realize I'm corresponding with a Veteran so I'm sure you're well aware of what I'm saying. Just wanted to hear from someone experienced in writing that it's ok to zoom past a 90K limit.
 
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Brigid Barry

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Hi @Magoo0214 you put your response inside of the Quote box for Liz so it's hard to tell where her comment ended and yours begins. :)

Think of it as a guideline rather than a limit - on your first draft it might come through a little bloated, that's what revisions are for.

There's a great tool called Query Tracker that with a subscription you can see what agents typically accept as far as word counts go before you submit. There is a threshhold for most of them, due to the commitment of traditional publishing, but if your story takes 100k words to tell, then that's the story. I believe the wisdom (which I am butchering horribly by paraphrasing) is high word counts make agents thing the book hasn't been edited well.
 
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lizmonster

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In general, a book should be exactly as long as it needs to be, and not a word longer. :)

For first-timers, it's almost always better to stick with traditional word counts, just because auto-rejects based on word count are a thing. That said, longshots have paid off; it's just worth recognizing you're making your odds a good deal longer.
 

morgand

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I never have any idea how long my book is going to be. I do outline my books pretty heavily, but so many scenes end up being much shorter or longer than planned... and first drafts almost never go according to the outline, at least for me. I can get a sense of whether it's going to be Long (over 100k words) or Not Long (under 100k) but that's about it, haha.

I'm not at the querying stage yet, but I'm working on some (hopefully) final rewrites for a few of my WIPs, so I figure I'll worry about how close I am to the traditional word counts for my genres once I'm editing those last drafts.
 
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SForster

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I am grossly inaccurate when gaging the length of my stories. When I begin I say "This will just be a short story; maybe 20 pages or so..."
But I always know how the story ends when I start it, so I know I am not done until I reach that end scene,
and then all this unexpected stuff happens before I reach that ending scene...
and that seems to take a lot more than 20 pages.
Every time.
 
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