Tuesday Tip: On Word Counts

A couple days ago, I wrote a post for The Muffin for all those writers who’re engaged in November’s writing challenges. Mostly, I wanted to emphasize one point. To wit, if you’re going to put in the effort for a writing challenge, make those word counts count.

And that got me thinking about word counts and my own efforts. After a day at the Rutger’s One-Plus-One Conference, I knew I wanted to add a bit more of a spiritual element in my Young Adult novel, but even with those added words, I wondered if my YA novel’s length would fall within the publishing industry’s standards for contemporary YA.

To be honest, I’m a bare bones writer. I tend to throw out the descriptive stuff and get right to the action. Probably because when I read, I skip those long, descriptive passages. Unless, of course, the prose is so lyrical, so evocative, that I can’t help but read it. Truly, I don’t come across that kind of writing that often–and I’m nowhere near that level of skill in my own prose. So I just zip through with my dialogue and hope that no one notices. I wouldn’t notice myself, except that when I come to the end of my books or stories, I almost always think, hmmmm. That seemed a lot longer when I was writing it.

Anyway, I needed to check word counts for books. Maybe you do, too. You can read the Guide to Literary Agents’ post on the subject, or you can check out Literary Rambles, where Casey McCormick gives a fairly in-depth look at word counts for children’s books, and provides a handful of related sites for further research. And you can always go to Renaissance Learning and find the exact word count of a book (and other useful info) as I did for The Princess Bride.

And finally, I’ll leave you with this question to ponder: Have you ever noticed how, no matter what you’re doing, math finds a way to stick its nose in your business?

Keeping Up With Word Counts

I’m not sure how I missed this word count post by Jennifer Laughran, what with me pouncing on her blog like a cat on a clueless mouse. But there you have it, I did. Maybe you did, too.

So here’s what I love about her discussion of word counts:

1. She includes books in each category, books that are mostly classics and make me say, “Wow. I have not read that yet. Perhaps I should.”

2. She gives word count ranges. Ranges give me breathing room. Ahhhhh….

3. And then, just in case I was still freaking out, she shared this super bit of advice…

 “Remember, this list is by no means exhaustive and should not be considered law. Don’t get too freaked out about it… just find the average word count for books similar to your own, and try to be somewhere vaguely in the ballpark.

And before I could pull my hair out and scream, “What? How do I find these golden word counts?”, she took my freaked-out hand and directed me to the AR Bookfinder to click upon. Which I think was really swell of her and why when I dream of really swell agents, I dream of Jennifer Laughran.

Finding Word Count Info

I wish I could give a shout out to whomever tweeted about Casey McCormick and her Literary Rambles blog post about word counts for children’s books. Because her post is packed with pithy word count info! (I thought I might come up with another “p” and get all alliterative here, but alas, I was foiled at the end.)

I tag lots of links to read later and never quite get around to reading them. But I’m ever so happy that this time, I zipped over for a quick look-see. Not only does Casey share word count wisdom, but she also has a nifty blog in general. Agent stuff and writing stuff and query stuff and…well, I could go on. But it would probably be best if you just zipped over to check it out yourself.

For what it’s worth, I agree with Casey about staying within the general word count parameters. It’s tough enough to get an agent without sabotaging yourself with a 200,000 word MG manuscript. Oh, and you might want to take a look at some of her resource articles while you’re there.

I found a goldmine of good um, stuff when I happened on Literary Rambles.  (Dang! That last alliteration is STILL eluding me!)