Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Does Size Matter?

I've read writing tips about how the word count of a novel is guided by genre and by whether or not the book is part of a series. What about where a writer is in their career? Are there guidelines that apply specifically to first-time novelists?

Let be honest: doesn't size always matter? :)

Anyway...from what I was told, both before I submitted my ms to agents and after I'd nabbed one, the sweet spot for debut authors is about 80k words (75k-85k is perfect). This is for commercial fiction...I believe that you can go longer for historicals and perhaps paranormals. Anyone else know? YA is much shorter - somewhere in the 60k ballpark. But whatever you do, try to trim your ms to under 100k words. Anything longer, and from what I understand, agents assume that you've either rambled on too long and/or lack any ability to self-edit.

After you've proven yourself, I'd imagine that you have more flexibility. I mean, if the publishers knows that you have a built-in audience who is going to slap down their credit cards regardless of length, I doubt that they'd balk at your 115k ms. But for first-timers, generally, it's probably best to try to adhere to what the industry prefers.

Just my opinion, of course. Anyone have a different experience or know the desired word counts in other genres?


Bernita said...

From an editing point of view, I suspect it's easier to flesh out than flense.

Amie Stuart said...

I'd rather cut than edit in!

I know it sure seems like 80 is the going rate lately. I think you're right..most places are still around 100k but Kensington's Aphro line is 75-80k. I look at it this way though, if it's a great book the length won't matter.

Anonymous said...

Learning about 80k = priceless

Anonymous said...

Here are two questions that might fit in now:

1. Allison, you mentioned joining an online writers group while working to finish TDLF. Was that for support, critiques or both? And was the experience worthwhile?

2. Are there other profesional writers organizations -- besides RWA -- that would provide memberships with benefits? (Hmmm, I'm sounding a bit like Amy Haskell. *G*)

Allison Winn Scotch said...

Amie - I agree: I'd rather cut than add. Much easier for me to do.

Thanks for the qs, Larr! Good ones. I'll definitely get to them!

Glad the 80k answer was helpful.