Word count especially for unpublished writers

Discussion in 'General Writing Discussion' started by Montero, Feb 12, 2012.

  1.  
    Montero

    Montero Senior Member

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    Came across a blog that seems to be written by someone who knows what they are saying
    http://theswivet.blogspot.com/2008/03/on-word-counts-and-novel-length.html

    Where they summarise as
    ---> hard sf = 90k to 110k
    ---> space opera = 90k to 120k
    ---> epic/high/traditional/historical fantasy = 90k to 120k
    ---> contemporary fantasy = 90k to 100k
    ---> romantic SF = 85k to 100k
    ---> urban fantasy = 90k to 100k
    ---> new weird = 85k to 110k
    ---> slipstream = 80k to 100k
    ---> comic fantasy = 80k to 100k
    ---> everything else = 90k to 100k

    What do you all think?
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    The Judge

    The Judge Truth. Order. Moderation. Staff Member

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    I think it's light on the epic fantasy -- Angry Robot appears to be using 140k as a limit, and I've seen 150k elsewhere.

    I'm in two minds if this is a Publishing with a capital P matter or just GWD... I think I'll transfer it over there, since you're opening it for discussion.
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    Bowler1

    Bowler1 Senile Member

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    I think to get passed 200 pages, you need to produce 80k words. As most books are 200+ pages and uauslly 250 pages, still a thin book, 100k words is a good benchmark, for starters.

    That is a lot of work to produce, but most first time works are around this mark, generally. I would not agree with trying to set targets for the number of words in a story but let the story run, let it grow, and see where it takes you. Beware padding is my message, stick to quality story telling.
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    Dozmonic

    Dozmonic Member

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    That's pretty accurate. General fiction is 80-100k, with an average of 90-100k. Then there's genre specifics that'll usually push the higher end up, fantasy and larger sci-fi works adding 20-40k words onto that. If you're rewriting for young adult, you're dropping some subplot usually and as such dropping 10-20k words, which isn't much in all fairness.

    If you've written a fantastic piece of historical fiction, fantasy or sci-fi and it's coming in at the 80k mark. It's likely to be suggested that you expand upon some story lines within there to bring it up to the higher mark. Similarly, if you're writing a fast paced thriller which is topping 150k, the suggesion would likely be to streamline the work.

    To specify it in terms of pages doesn't always work well as you'll have authors who write massive chapters of joined scenes, or those who'll write a book made up of 120 scenes all separated as though they were their own chapters. To display a James Patterson book of 120 "chapters" in the manner of a traditional 35 chapter book, you're losing some 90 or so pages that're only half or three quarters filled.
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    psychotick

    psychotick Dangerously confused

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    Hi,

    Fascinating post. I'd guess though that self publishing has altered the game a little. My first self pubbed fantasy was 185 k, the next 140. And all the rest save one are over 100 k. I don't think I've put out a novel under 80 k.

    But I was confused by some of the terms. New Weird and Slipstream?

    Cheers, Greg.
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    iansales

    iansales Active Member

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    That blog post is for US publishers. UK ones are slightly different - they prefer slightly larger wordcounts.
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    Grimbear

    Grimbear In the Woods

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    New Weird and Slipstream?

    Me too - what the hell are they? Anyone know?
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    Venusian Broon

    Venusian Broon Active Member

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    Some of my short stories have been catergorised thusly.

    But I thought I was just writing some sort of fantasy or horror. Or if I was pushed to catergorise it further, dark urban fantasy/horror.

    New Weird. I think it is seen as a sort of subverted fantasy set in a current modern world. So no new worlds and settings, but fractured realities and disconnected realities. Subverted I take to mean that it will take the tropes of 'standard' fantasy and twist them - usually making them much darker and grislier. So no Harry Potter. China Mieville has been discussed as one writer who has written in this genre, although I've never read anything of his - so I can't tell you if that's true.

    Slipstream seems to be an older and an even less well defined terms. Apparently seems to be much more 'literary' whatever that means.
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    Grimbear

    Grimbear In the Woods

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    Thanks for clearing that up. I've read China Mieville and his books are weird. He has this new one coming out which I will get - about a world where everything is on rails.
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    Mouse

    Mouse roar

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    I find this hideously depressing. And what Ian says especially so.

    The longest thing I've written was just under 80k. And that had a lot of characters and a lot of action.

    My new WiP has three main characters and a very small (at the moment, anyway) storyline.

    Why does everything have to be so long for? I would always choose a shorter book over a longer one.
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    Gumboot

    Gumboot lorcutus.tolere

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    I guess I better split my book in half... ;)
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    SJAB

    SJAB The storyteller

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    Like everything else the word count quoted are guidelines. Aim to get your manuscript between 90,000 and 150,000 words. If it is good enough to be taken up by an agent/publisher you most likely will be asked either to add or subtract from the word count. Just work to make the story a good one.
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    Warren_Paul

    Warren_Paul Banishment this world!

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    I'm editing down to 145k, as was suggested to me and leaving it at that. But as said in an earlier post, those guidelines are for US, who typically want smaller books. There are plenty of examples where authors in both US and UK that break this 120k word limit on there debut novels.

    I think we as writers get a bit too caught up on the word count (I'm guilty of that too). If the book is worth the amount of words then it doesn't matter, that's how I see it.


    Gumboot, you mentioned in another post that your heavy on the world building/descriptions, which is fine, I'd just make sure to avoid 'walls of text' where the reader will lose track of what's happening and switch off. Over explaining the landscape isn't always good.

    Ian Irvine does this, and sometimes getting through his books is a bit painful because of it. It doesn't help that the first book was 300 pages of Character A is running away from Character B. Character B chases her from one side of the world to the other, only catching up to her occasionally, just for her to escape again and keep running.
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    Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    But I see that high fantasy, epic fantasy, traditional fantasy, and historical fantasy are all lumped together as though publishers consider them the same thing, which seems doubtful.

    Anyone thinking to sell an epic (in the US or the UK) with a first volume coming in at less than 100,000 words should probably think again.
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    Gumboot

    Gumboot lorcutus.tolere

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    I think that's probably the best advice anyone can get. Ultimately if you're fretting about things like wordcount or how long a chapter should be, your energies are focused in entirely the wrong place, and your work will suffer for it. There's a million books out there telling people the secret formula for writing a good film, and people follow those formulas like a recipe and the end result is inevitably a horrible film. I think it's the same for novels. The story should dictate length and where the story gets broken up.


    Very true. I recall skipping pages of certain authors... I used to be too heavy on the descriptions but I think I am in the right place now. I'll use it to reflect the pace and mood. If it's a tense and fast-moving moment the best you might get is "It was night". If it's two lovers lingering on a balcony, enjoying the beautiful evening, you might get a paragraph describing the scene. Ultimately I am a hapless slave to my story. Whatever she needs, I provide her.



    Too-detailed descriptions do my head in! Especially when put in a bad place. Like the middle of a battle scene.
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    Karn Maeshalanadae

    Karn Maeshalanadae Why?

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    And of course, it all comes down to the particular story/volume itself.

    I'm sure we can all remember some of Stephen King's works, such as The Stand?


    Or the volumes of The Wheel of Time? Those are all far larger than a mere 100k, I should hazard to guess. And also not to mention the last part of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. In paperback Tad Williams had to split that into two separate volumes so they wouldn't have to cut down on the quality of the materials used.
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    Warren_Paul

    Warren_Paul Banishment this world!

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    The Wheel of Time books are two books in one. :p

    Same with Steven Erikson, I believe he aims for around 240k per manuscript.
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    Gumboot

    Gumboot lorcutus.tolere

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    The shortest is "A Path of Daggers" which is 226,000 (if you don't include the prequel). The longest so far is "The Shadow Rising" (394,000).

    In fact if you look here:

    http://loopingworld.com/2009/03/06/wordcount/

    Most of the first volumes of these series' are around 200,000 words or more.
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    Warren_Paul

    Warren_Paul Banishment this world!

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    Makes me want to add the rest of my book back reading those numbers. I pushed half my story back into Book Two.
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    David Evil Overlord

    David Evil Overlord Censored Member

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    Good. You're partway into the obligatory trilogy. :)

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