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Are you worried about your word count?

My first book (the one that was terrible in every respect and failed) was just over 120,000 words long. For my current (hopefully better) book, ‘Rise of the Sparrows’, I’m aiming for around 100,000 or slightly more.

Today I came across this wonderful blog called The Write Practice, which suggests around 110,000 words for fantasy novels and it got me thinking!

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When you start a new book, do you set yourself an overall word count? How much does the word count matter to you, either as a writer or as a reader? I have read some very long books which have easily shot past the suggested 110,000 words, but I have also seen mystery books or thrillers with barely 60,000 words.

When I started ‘Rise of the Sparrows’ I didn’t think about how many words it should have by the time I’m done, I just wanted to get this story out of my system. I didn’t start thinking more seriously about what the overall word count could be until I had started writing it, but my only real comparison was my previous failure of a book. While I have set myself 100,000 as a goal I’m not married to it and am happy to adjust.

How do you feel about it? Is the overall word count important when you start writing or would you rather write 10,000 more than cut your story short?

~Sarina

Published inA Writer's MusingsUncategorized

4 Comments

  1. I have a word count in mind, but the more and more I write a book, the less the word count means to me. It’s a good goal to get myself motivated, but I don’t try and stretch a book out just to meet it. Because if I did, the book would just turn into pointless drabble. Right now I am aiming for 85k, just because it’s not too big and I know I can pass it by miles with the material I have. I just use word goals to keep myself moving and for a daily word count goal that is manageable.

    • 85k is a good goal, especially when you know that you can easily get there. It feels good to shoot past word count goals! I agree, I mostly have weekly/daily word counts that I want to hit but I know it’s not always going to be possible so I’m flexible enough not to get discouraged when I’m 1k out. My overall word count right now just isn’t important enough yet. It’ll be what it’ll be.

  2. My philosophy was that a story should be as long as it takes to tell it.

    Notice that I said “was” back there. That philosophical belief was before I wrote my first novel.

    Now, I think it’s up to the writer to feel how long a story should be. If the pacing is too slow, maybe it needs to be cut. If there’s not enough to it, maybe there needs to be more. The picture I have in mind is of an editor putting together a movie. Yes, they probably have a goal of a certain time they’re supposed to hit, but at the same time, they’re keeping things in mind like what’s necessary for the story to be told and making sure the story moves along at a good pace. Of course, if something needs to be added, well, that’s what re-shoots are for. That’s something I’ve thought a lot about in going from my first novel to my second. And you know what? I really feel like my second novel, even in its first draft, is better crafted than the first novel (which took seven revisions to get me comfortable with it).

    That said, I do have a practice of keeping track of word count, but by chapter. I don’t want to go over 5,000 words in a chapter, so once I near that mark, I start figuring out how to wrap up the chapter. And if I think of something that I seriously want to add into that chapter, guess what happens: I get out my editing scissors and snip, snip, snip. This actually does help the story as I drop weaker content in favor of stronger content. And that’s really what you want, to have strong content throughout your story.

    But this is simply my process. I’m still learning how to do this novel-writing thing; so by no means would I call myself an expert. This is just what has come to work for me so far. Whatever way works for you is completely fine, and you should do it your way.

    Happy writing! 🙂

  3. Well I don’t look at word count as I’m writing. I really think it has some to do with genre as well. When I wrote my first book, because of how it started, word count wasn’t even in my forethought until I got to the end and saw that number.

    Since I find myself planted somewhere in the romance area, those books tend to be smaller, there’s even a new trend of writing serials which is basically taking one book and breaking it up into parts. When I see something like that I feel like it’s a numbers game. You are getting the same word count, but it appears more manageable in those ‘bite sized’ pieces.

    My main focus is on trying to keep a consistent length on the chapters, but since I tend to not plan out things, that’s not always the case. I really just let the characters take the lead, I try not to over write in areas like background descriptions and things like that to keep work count from getting way out of control.

    My hope is that my next book won’t be as long as the first, which was a whopping 220,000 +. Yeah, next book needs to hopefully be cut in half, but we’ll see how much story they have to tell.

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