Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What's in a word count? (aka: My beast has taken on a life of its own!)

I've always found the revision process interesting. It's when you get other people's feedback that you find out you didn't write the book you thought you did. This is where you pick up on where characters need to be more fleshed out or plot points need to be clarified so it turns into the masterpiece you were sure it was.

I have some amazing readers, the most thorough of which is my truly fabulous agent. I'm on my second round of revisions for her on my Too Hot For YA WIP. But the thing is, the first time I sent it to her, it was 76K words. Based on her notes, I revised and it grew to 90K. In this second round, I just passed 97K and it feels like the manuscript (not the story) is starting to take on a life of its own. (The story has always had a life of its own.) At this point, I'm pretty sure I'll hit 100K before I'm done.

Manuscript length is a hotly debated topic, but the truth is there's no "right" word count. But the thing is, whether your manuscript is 50K or 150K, each word has to count. Padding word counts is something I hear people talk about, but I don't understand it. If anything, I'd think as an author, we'd want to cut word counts. If I can tell the same story in less words while preserving the nuances of setting, emotion and turmoil, why would I want to tell it in more?

So, my last pass before I send this back to my truly fabulous agent and my amazing critique partner will be to cull out anything that's not essential to character development or plot progression.

I'm curious. Have there been books you read where you thought they were either too short or too long? Without naming names (unless you want to) why were you left with that impression?


  1. Well, there were certainly books that were too long and could have been cut down (repetitions, too much unnecessary exposition, etc.), and books that were too sparse, they needed more meat (leaves you feeling confused as to what exactly happened in the story).

    Word count is a funny thing. I guess word count guidelines are just that...guidelines.

  2. They are guidelines. People break them all the time, and a lot of them become NYT bestsellers. I think the right word count is the least amount it takes to get the job done well.

  3. I haven't read a book that I thought was too long.. But most of the shorts I've read are definitely too short but they are indie books and mostly erotic. *blushes*

  4. My MS is too short! Lol. It's 45k, but I can't think of ways to expand it!

    1. If the story's done and all the characters are three-dimensional, the relationships are believable and the plot is fully developed, it doesn't need to be longer, IMHO. =)

  5. FLYAWAY is less than 50K words. A lot of people have said it's too short, but on the other hand, I've had plenty of teachers say it's an absolutely perfect length for reluctant readers. So I think it's really a matter of getting the story told, and of who's reading it.

  6. I worry about that. My wip is sitting at 62,000 but it's still in the revision stage.

    I know Lisa McMann's 'Wake' was very short and it was incredible. Extremely tight writing so I try to tell myself it's the story that counts, not the number of words it takes to tell it.