April 2011 - Posts

Thinking About Word Count
Tuesday, April 5, 2011 6:23 PM
I love word count. I like it when a magazine has a very specific minimum or limit to how many words they will publish and enjoy tailoring a story to meet those requirements, particularly when it comes to the challenge of a condensing a story to a very low word limit. This is probably one of the reasons I enjoy writing flash so much.

However, with my novel, I'm looking at the same problem only much bigger and a lot more vague. Instead of trying to trim a 1,200 word story to be under a thousand words for a flash mag, I'm faced with the dilemma of whether or not to cut down the length of my book. Or I should say, how much to cut, as I probably need to do some regardless. I'm almost halfway through my second draft. I finished another chapter today (woo-hoo! middle of the week chapter! If I get another one done this weekend that'll be two this week and I'll have made up for some lost ground). I started looking at word count a little and noticed that the total has definitely been climbing. The first one weighed in at 154,549 words. So far, this one has climbed to right around 170,000, and that's only halfway done. It's hard to tell just where it'll end up at as I have more to add and plenty to cut. I won't be worrying about it too much this draft, I have to just finish it up and see what comments I get from my readers when it comes to length. Did I need more in places or less? I know speculative novels are expected to be longer, but as a first time novelists, I can't help but think that the shorter the book, the easier it will be for an agent or publisher to attach themselves to it. One thing I'll have to do after getting my readers comments and looking at the total length of draft two will be to set a goal. This may require some more research, perhaps even contacting some agents or publishers, but I'll need to decide on the word count I want to shoot for.

To get a frame of reference, I looked up the word counts for some famous novels. The Harry Potter books are a great example because they varied so much in length. They came in as follows:

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - 76,944 words 
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - 85,141 words 
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - 107,253 words 
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - 190,637 words 
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - 257,045 words 
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - 168,923 
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - 198,227

I definitely don't want it to be as short as those first novels, which were clearly more meant for children, but I thought the last few books were a bit too long and that's the neighborhood mine is in right now. I started to get worried when I saw that Ender's Game was only 100K, but then I saw Dune was more than 185k and The Fellowship of the Ring rang in at over 175k. I probably shouldn't worry about it too much then. I just need to see how exhausted my readers are come story's end.

More word counts here if you're curious:

Until next time, I'm Eric and I'm an unpublished author.
by DMI | with no comments
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