Today’s word count and full word counts

Happy Fourth! Hope you had lots of great food, company and fireworks. We just saw our local fireworks from our backyard. Very nice.

I finally got some more writing done today, and here’s my daily word count:

Current word count: 9,240

Words written today: 787

Words to goal: 30,760/ 350 per day til end of September

I’ve changed the final word count, which I was planning to be around 50,000 for a middle grade novel. 50K is lower than my first novel, which is 60,000. Now, that 60K fit right in the correct range for middle grade novels that I had researched when I was writing the book. Back then, I had found articles that said a middle grade novel should be up to 65,000, so I thought I was quite good at 60K. Apparently not.

Recently, I’ve read in a couple places that the word counts wanted for middle grade novels are between 20,000 and 50,000. Here’s a post from June on the blog Pursue Your Writing Dream, entitled Writing for Kids: Middle Grade Novels. And here’s a post from the Guide to Literary Agents blog that cites agent Michelle Andelman as saying the correct word count for a middle grade novel is 20,000 to 40,000.

It seems as though my old research is showing its age.

Now, there’s something to be said for writing as much as you need to tell the story, and I know that some agents don’t stick to these guidelines too severely. But, we have to remember that this is a business. And, especially for new writers, it can’t hurt to make our books as tight as possible.

Let’s face it, for many of us writers — ok, probably all — we think all our words are golden. But, as hard as it is to cut some great piece of writing that we’re so proud of, if the story doesn’t need it, it shouldn’t be in there. First and foremost, we writers are storytellers, and the story should be the most important thing. If the average middle grade novel is in the 20K to 50K range, then the average good story for that age group should be able to be told within that range.

Are there exceptions? Always. Each of the subsequent Harry Potter books get farther and farther away from 50K.

But again, for new writers, it doesn’t hurt — and probably helps — to rein in the writing and concentrate on story. And that doesn’t mean we can’t also have great writing. It just means, tell a tight story in just the right words. Tell a tight story first, then find make the writing great in the revision.

So, there’s the challenge. And now, although I had been aiming for a 50K MG novel, I’ve now lowered that to 40K. Cut 10% or so in the revision and I should be right smack in the right range.

How are you guys doing with your daily word counts?

Anyone else find out you’re off the average manuscript length?

Write On!


4 Responses

  1. Casey says:

    My personal advice is to write the story as long as it needs to be (providing it’s not way, way over the mark) and then worry about cutting or expanding.

    Everything I’ve read encourages MG to be between 20-40k and YA between 40-70k, especially for debut authors. Fantasy gets a little bit more leeway but, in these times, not much. If you’ve got a golden track record, your publisher will be much more willing to back up a higher word count (like HP, as you mentioned). And even though the first HP book was 77.5k, I would urge people to stay under 70k. In this market, you really don’t want to give publisher a reason as avoidable as word count to pass you by. The higher the word count, the higher the fiscal risk for them.

    Gee, you pretty much said that already, huh? LOL. Don’t mind my rambling. I’m just backin’ you up!

    That said, I’ve done 24 pages of my rewrite. I probably won’t get to my goal of 60 by Wed but I’ll try!

  2. You’re absolutely right, Casey. And thanks for the backup. 🙂

    Don’t think about word count in your first draft, although it is good to have something to aim for so you’re not too way off. It’ll help in the revision.

    For example, with the novel I’m writing now, my instinct tells me that I’m already too wordy. I don’t think the story will be finished when I hit my 40K goal. But I’m not worrying about that for now. I’m heading for 40k, but wherever the story ends, it ends, and the rest will be fixed in revision.

    Well done on your 24 pages of rewrite, Casey. I’m routing for you to get to 60 by Wednesday.

  3. You know, I used to not be a word whore. I remember friends of mine asking how many words I had written, or discussing their own manuscripts in word tallies, and thinking how vulgar it sounded and how could anyone relate quality to quantity.

    Now? Now I am constantly checking. I have fifty one thousand words written of a hundred thousand word book (actually, it will probably be more like seventy five or eighty) and all I can do is keep looking at this graphic device I created through Excel.

    Ah, OCD.

  4. hahaha, yeah. Keeping tracking of your word tally is really just a great way of keeping track of your progress. And to me, sharing that progress with others, like on a blog like this, is a good way of staying motivated because you feel like you’re responsible for putting up a word count. It keeps you accountable to a degree.

    I’m always very motivated seeing other people’s word counts and goals, not in a competition sort of way, but in an, if they can do it, I can do it too sort of way.

    I’m impressed that you’ve made a graphic in Excel for your word count. It feel good to see your accomplishments. It’s good to celebrate them.

What do you think?