Monday, September 28, 2009

Word Count Parameters

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There’s a long list of diatribes as to the length of various types of writing, and everyone seems to disagree with everyone else. What’s a writer to do?

The reality is, people don’t read what YOU want, they read what THEY want. A second grader won’t read a two hundred thousand word tome, and there is nothing you can do about it. If you’re writing romance, nobody will pick up your thirty-seven page booklet. Ain’t gonna happen, bucko!

If you work is too long for your market, it probably needs to broken into two books and you’ve got a ton of unnecessary words. Yes, there are exceptions, but get over it, you are not The One. If it’s too short in length, you probably don’t have a story hidden in there. The lesson is, of course, writing to your market. What will they buy? Write that.

Now, what is the correct length for each type of genre? As mentioned, there is a wide range of answers but according to The Guide to Literary Agents, here are you limits.

Adult novels :

80,000 to 90,000 words is your word count.
110,000 is your upper limit.
70,000 is your lower limit.

Sci-Fi and Fantasy

100,000 to 115,000 is your target word count.
125,000 is your upper limit.
90,000 is your lower limit.

Middle Grade

Upper middle grade or “tweens”,

32,000 – 40,000 is your target word count.

Lower middle grade

20,000 to 30,000 is your target word count.

The Guide did not offer upper and lower limits in these categories so stay within these bounds.

YA (Young Adult)

55,000 – 69,000 is your target word count.
80,000 is your upper limit.
47,000 is your lower limit.

Remember, agents receive thousands of manuscripts a year, but only need a few dozen. They are looking for a reason to say, “No.” Don’t give them that reason. Color within the lines until after you have sold those million copies.

Best of luck.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of "Born to be Brothers"

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