Writing Wrongs

October 19, 2005

Jenn asked about the word count on The Boys’ Club and whether it’s typical for a novel. The simple answer is: not really. There’s also a long and involved answer that has to do with how publishers “count” words (sometimes) and paper usage and other exciting stuff.

This site has a quick and easy explanation (with lots of white space that makes it easy to digest) of word processor word count vs. standard manuscript format word count. If you’re terminally curious, have a peek.

All done? Good. My goal of 110,000 is word processor word count. I’m hoping, when all is said and done--or rather, written--that I’ll end up with 125,000 words in standard manuscript format. That’s a fairly big book for a first-time novelist (the first one published, not necessarily the first one written, that is).

The size of a “typical” novel really depends on what it is. Those super-thin romances have a much shorter word count than say an epic fantasy. (Speaking of category romances, Diana has an interesting post that explains much about the industry side.) But a thin book can be misleading--check the font size and margins. It may be packing a lot more words than you thought it was. I’ve noticed a trend toward more words per page in published novels.

Helpful Writing Gurus™ often suggest that the first-time novelist (we’re back to that ubiquitous first-time novelist) shoot for something in the 80,000 – 100,000 word count range (industry format). Many books published do fall in this range (although many do not) and I think at a glance, it suggests a writer knows her craft and has written a tight story (nothing extraneous, no long passages about the Lithuanian sunset when the story takes place in Pittsburg).

However, all 80,000 – 100,000 words maybe be crap, and that sprawling 250,000-word monstrosity may be the next big thing. You can’t always judge a book by its cover or its word count.

Back to The Boys’ Club. 110,000 is an arbitrary goal. If I come in under that, I’ll be thrilled (and frankly, amazed), if I go over, especially for the first draft, no big deal. It’s supposed to be a “big” book, Big timeframe, big “scope” (or so I hope), covering nearly five years, but not every last minute of those five years (that would be . . . tedious).

While told from Kit’s point of view, there is an ensemble cast, her relationship with each of the boys (Mark, Steve, Vic), and the “club” itself. She grows. Each of the boys grows. And it takes a fair number of words to go from the fall of the Berlin Wall to Somalia, circa 1993.

And this is a much longer explanation than I’m sure anyone wanted. In fact, in standard manuscript formatting, it weighs in at 510 words (Word is telling me it’s 481).

Charity Tahmaseb wrote at 11:03 a.m.

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