1. GoodTweetyBird
    Offline

    GoodTweetyBird Member

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2013
    Messages:
    41
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    Virginia

    Word count

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by GoodTweetyBird, Aug 2, 2013.

    In high school we always whined, "How many words does it have to be?" If the size was indeed in words I felt doomed. I could easily use a 1000 word complaining that I could never think of 500 to write.

    But sometimes the answer would be in lines or pages in which case I was ready because we had a Pica typeset typewriter giving me 10 characters to the inch instead of the dreaded Elite 12. Next bonus was double spacing: "Miss Pedantic, do you want it double-spaced to allow room for all the corrections you will need to pencil in?" I prayed for double spacing because our SCM would also do 2.5 line spacing. If Ms Pedantic ever noticed, she never said so. Now I can't shut up, I write too much. See? I haven't even posed my question yet.

    So how many words for say a romantic novel (not that I would ever pen one, of course)? But Open Office tells me I am at 44,000 and the story is nowhere near told. There is sadness in Christie's life and John burns a lot of lines in mild humor cheering her up (grammar, I know). I have tried to print a bit of it as paperback size trying to get an idea by comparative thickness. Then I found you kind folks who are full of ideas, knowledge, and advise. So I look forward to some more of that now, if you please.

    Thanks,

    John
     
  2. hippocampus
    Offline

    hippocampus Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2012
    Messages:
    136
    Likes Received:
    5
    I'm still not exactly sure what your question is. If you're asking how long does your novel have to be, there are many posts on here about this subject already - including "how long?" and "is this too long?" or "is this too short?"

    Maybe do a search for your exact question and see what comes up?

    Or ... just write until you're done and worry about the length later. :D
     
  3. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,683
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    The usual guideline for first novels is 80,000 to 120,000 words, with a real preference for keeping it to 100,000 or less. Romances would tend to be a bit less, I think.

    I wouldn't worry about word count at this point. In fact, if you can turn word count off on your software, do it so that it stops being such a distraction. You can start worrying about it when the first draft is done and you begin editing.

    My first novel attempt was written on software that did not list word count, and I didn't even think to check it until I was ready to start sending out query letters. When I did, I almost had a heart attack - it was something like 420,000 words! It turned out that there were a lot of common novice errors in it that tended to fluff up word count - way too much incidental dialogue, lots of needless description, too much information provided, not leaving enough to the reader's imagination. So, I went back to editing and eventually winnowed it down to 140,000 - still too much. At that point, I realized that it had already served its purpose as a learning experience, and I moved on to my next attempt.

    So, go write, learn and enjoy. And forget about word count for now.
     
  4. GoodTweetyBird
    Offline

    GoodTweetyBird Member

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2013
    Messages:
    41
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    Virginia
    Thanks Ed,

    I am glad I stopped by here on my way out. I was all pumped up to post to the humor page and found out I don't yet qualify. Then I remembered I had been waiting hours for a reply to my question and here you are. Your posts are interesting as well as informative. Thanks for cheering me up.

    I am using Open Office and though there may be a setting to do otherwise, but as installed no word count. I must check properties for that.

    420K, wow!


    Best Regards,

    John
     
  5. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,683
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    Glad I could help.

    Yeah, 420K. I'm not long-winded. I'm tersely challenged.
     
  6. BMacKay40
    Offline

    BMacKay40 Member

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2013
    Messages:
    31
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    USA/ Southeast
    I too worried about word count at one time. My first and only novel that I've written is 85,000 words. Then, I started to write "short-stories". I called them short because they were much shorter than my novel. 13,000 - 24,000 words. Now, I really don't care. I have a story to tell and if I tell the whole story in 15,000 words, so be it. If the next one takes me 25,000, so be it.
     
  7. TLK
    Offline

    TLK Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2013
    Messages:
    272
    Likes Received:
    35
    It's not the 420k that amazes me, it's how Ed managed to get it down to a third of that size...
     
  8. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,724
    Likes Received:
    4,821
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    Not saying that Ed's book had this problem, but I've read the occasional story that could have been cut to a third its size simply by deleting the first two-thirds of it. Nothing important would have been lost. It turns out that some novice writers seem to want to start their stories with the main character's birth, when nothing important happens in his life until he's thirty years old. Watch out for that sort of thing! :)
     
  9. JetBlackGT
    Offline

    JetBlackGT Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    465
    Likes Received:
    158
    Location:
    Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States
    Bible. :)
     
  10. captain kate
    Offline

    captain kate Active Member

    Joined:
    May 4, 2008
    Messages:
    876
    Likes Received:
    28
    Location:
    Cruising through space.
    "Everyone has a back story and it's boring," Stephen King.
     
  11. GoodTweetyBird
    Offline

    GoodTweetyBird Member

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2013
    Messages:
    41
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    Virginia
    Yeah, it takes many a chapter, and lots of begottings before you get to the hot stuff in the book of Ruth.

    jh
     
  12. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,683
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    It was varying degrees of 1) eliminating an entire subplot that really should have been its own story, 2) too much incidental dialogue (ie. too much like real conversations), 3) too much description, including too many things not left to the reader's imagination, 4) too much backstory (almost an entire chapter and then large parts of two others, much of which was backstory to a subplot) and 5) too many needless dialogue tags. I was most amazed by the fact that, while my initial efforts at editing had been relatively painful - do I really have to cut this? - once someone had pointed out the various types of errors I had made, I was able to cut and slash with mad abandon. But even with that, it took about a dozen times through the work to get it down to the 140K.
     
  13. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,794
    Likes Received:
    7,313
    Location:
    Scotland
    I experienced a similar situation with my novel. I was eventually able to hack off more than a third of it just by dumping over-writing. (I didn't have a extra subplot to dump, or I would have done...!)

    So. Did you find, when you started writing another novel, (assuming you have) that you no longer made those initial mistakes? Or has your first-draft style remained the same as before?
     

Share This Page