1. FirstTimeNovelist91
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    FirstTimeNovelist91 Senior Member

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    At what point...

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by FirstTimeNovelist91, Sep 27, 2012.

    At what point do you start worrying about word count?

    I tried asking this question at the writing process thread but didn't get any responses. I'm writing a fantasy novel and it is at approximately 61k, and I still have quite a ways to cover. I would love to be able to publish this book, but I know how important word count is to publishers when the author is unknown.

    So, at what point do YOU start worrying about word count? Do you start editing it out as you go, or do you wait until the first draft is finished? At what word count should I start getting worried? Can I get away with more words b/c it is fantasy?
     
  2. B93
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    B93 Active Member

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    Pick your target length and see how the chapters you have written match up with the percent of the target length and a guess as to the percent of the length you will end up at. It is probably ok to overshoot a little on the first draft because when you reread it you can say "oh, that's a slow chapter" and shorten those.

    I've heard various target lengths such as 80 to 120K for new authors, with fantasy probably on the higher end of that range. Someone else may have a better idea.
     
  3. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wouldn't worry about it yet. Get your first draft out and then edit it later. I wouldn't worry so much about the word count per se, as I would worry about unnecessary scenes, excessive words, etc. Those things, though, you can take out when you edit. See how long it comes out after you've written the whole thing. Then go through it and do a good edit and see where you are on word count. I wouldn't worry unless you go much over 120K, if you're convinced you've done a good edit and your story is tight.
     
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  4. Program
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    Program Member

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    I never worry about word count - except when I'm over a limit set by someone else.
     
  5. Wolfwig
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    Wolfwig Member

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    Sounds like you have the opposite situation from me. I tend to come up short in my first draft and have to flesh things out when I edit. Believing balance is crucial to any story, I take a rough guess at how many chapters I may need, divide my minimal word count by this, and aim to get each chapter to at least that length. Its not a rigid system by any means, but it helps me keep the project contained and generally on target. Sorry, I can't speak for publisher expectations.
     
  6. cogitatio182
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    cogitatio182 Member

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    I was listening to a seminar by Michael Hyatt earlier today and he covered this. He suggests around 80k through 100k word count, and he's speaking as an ex-publisher. Maybe consider two books instead of one if you've got a super long book. It might break it up and make it easier to read and let you flesh things out rather then cramming. Just a thought,

    James
    Ravus Universe Project
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    if it's a novel, wait till you finish your first draft...

    if it's a short story and aimed at a particular venue [magazine, contest, etc.] and you've reached the upper limit of what's specified as being acceptable to that venue in its submission guidelines, but haven't gotten to the end of your story yet, that's the time to stop writing and cut down on what you have so far, in order to be able to finish it before exceeding the limit...
     
  8. Kat Hawthorne
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    Kat Hawthorne Member

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    Epic Fantasy seems to be a bit more lax on the words allowed in their stories. Know your genre. For example, in my last YA book, the first draft was 778 pages long - yes, that's right, 778 pages - not acceptable for YA (unless you are S. Meyer, and writing about vampires to a crowd of already loyal fans).

    What I found was that it is not possible to put too much in a first draft. What verbosity allows you to do, is go back and hack the boring and unneeded bits, and rate the importance of the parts you want to keep. I think, in the beginning, the more words the better. Gives you opportunity for a really tight story when you condense it later.

    Good luck!
     
  9. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    I've cut 2-3 chapters from my novel, which would be about 15-23k of words on my rewrite, and the novel doesn't hurt for the lack of it. The rewrite allowed for the subplot to be entered a different way, with less words, and more foreshadowing.
     
  10. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Spot on.
     
  11. FirstTimeNovelist91
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    FirstTimeNovelist91 Senior Member

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    See, I remember hearing somewhere that the first Twilight book was 133k words! But the story itself didn't seem worthy of that length, plot-wise.

    I'm trying to shoot for 95k-100k, and hopefully not a word over 100k.
     
  12. A. G. Lucchesi
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    A. G. Lucchesi New Member

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    Wonderful question! Personally I have an overall goal of 100k words, but I don't really "worry" about the wordcount until I am within a few thousand of finishing the novel, particularly if I have not achieved my goal. I would suggest just not worrying about it. You have your story in your head and it needs to come out the way it wants to before you start to worry about anything. Once you are finished and ready for the editing process, then I would focus on word count, especially if you are not at where you need to be for your genre. In my Antioch Writers' Workshop 2011 notes, I have this written: Most novels - 60k to 100k; Science-fiction and fantasy - up to 120k (anything that is more than that is TOO long); Traditional mystery - 60k to 75k. That gives you a general idea (I actually thought I had a more detailed guideline on word counts, but I can't seem to find it). But it is just a guideline, so it's kind of up to you to decide. Also, when you're ready to try to publish (if you choose to do so), some agencies and editors and whatnot have their own guidelines. I know I've seen some people who didn't want anything 100k or over.
     
  13. Sheriff Woody
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    Sheriff Woody Active Member

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    Don't worry about word count. Worry about telling the story. If it takes 100,000 words, then it takes 100,000 words. If it only takes 60,000, then it takes 60,000.

    Your primary concern should be telling the best story possible. Nothing else matters.
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it will matter when you get to where you query and submit to agents/publishers...

    so, until you get to the end of your story, you can ignore word count [unless you're at 100k way before the end], sheriff woody...

    but before you start querying, you'd better have your ms up/down to an acceptable size, or few [if any] will want to even look at it...
     
  15. A. G. Lucchesi
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    A. G. Lucchesi New Member

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    Exactly. Word count should only be worried about after the story is finished, and if the author has a direct problem with the length, otherwise it's not a big deal. I have a few writer friends, both of whom completed their fantasy novels. However, afterward, they realized that it was a bit too short to be a "novel" in its current condition, and then they went through the lovely process of revising and adding. I think one of the novels originally was completed at 60k or so, and she added 20k words to it. The other was only in the 30k range.

    Again, JUST WRITE THE STORY. If you worry about it too much, you might stifle your creative juices. Worry about it if it needs worrying when you're done.
     

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