Friday, June 15, 2007

Q & A #2: High Word Count

Q: I noticed that my story is on the high end of the word count that you give for a novel. In fact, I'm a little over 200k. Does it really matter how long the book is?

A: Yes, it does matter--especially in the case of first-time authors. Publishers are generally looking for novels between 80,000 and 100,000 words in length because that's the size that sells the best.

On average, a published book has about 300 words per page. A book might have as few as 250 words or as many as 400 words on each page depending on the typesetting. So a 80,000 word novel will end up at around 250 pages when published, and a 100,000 word novel is about 333 pages when published. (Don't forget the additional pages needed for the title page, acknowledgements page, and other preliminaries.)

So your 200,000 novel is over 666 pages long.

If this is your first novel, I'd strongly suggest ruthlessly cutting anything non-essential from the book. Read a scene or a description and mentally remove it from the book. Would the book still make sense? If so, then cut the scene. If the scene is necessary to further the plot, then could you cut some of the description and still get the important points in? Remember, only describe what is unusual or absolutely necessary to describe to prevent misunderstandings.

Another option is to split your book into two books of about 100,000 words each. Just make sure that at least some of the major problems in the story are resolved by the end of the first book so that your readers can have some closure at the end.

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