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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Word count?

   
Author Topic: Word count?
Hookt_Un_Fonix
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I am sure there are several threads concerning word count, but I am curious as to what is to much. I have a WIP that is near 80,000 right now, and most likely will have another 40,000 before I am done. I know with it being a first draft there will be editing, and streamlining, but is 120,000 to much? It would also be interesting to find out the word counts of some contemporary novels versus novels from a few generations ago. Are the books getting shorter as time goes on, or are we holding a consistent level?
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franc li
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If the Harry Potter series is any indication, I'd say it all depends. Though it's probably better to start modest and go crazy from there.
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Hookt_Un_Fonix
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what was the word count on the harry potter books? Is there a place where we can get the word counts of our favorite novels? I am curious to know the word count of War and Peace. How important it the word count though in context of the story. Do you write until you feel you are done, and the work is solid? Or if it is to long or short to met publishing standards do you cut and fill at teh expense of the story?
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RMatthewWare
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I don't think word count matters in a novel as long as the story is entertaining, moving, consistent, etc. If you can get people to read it and they don't think it drags, you're good. If people get bored (as a friend did with a draft of my current novel), then you know you need to fix it. Its substance, not length, that is essential.

Matt


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Chaldea
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Most first publications should be no longer than 80,000 words. There are two exceptions to the rule that I've heard of. One was right here on this board. Kings_Falcon says 100-120,000 is acceptable for fantasy. Otherwise, your ms should be the best thing your agent has read in 50 years.


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kings_falcon
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What I said is the group of agents I was talking to found that (80K - 120K) to be an acceptable length. The general sense I get is that there is a bit more leeway on fantasy/ Sci Fi than a Murder Mystery/ Thriller/ Romance because there is an acknowledgement that you have to set up the world and that takes time. But I'm not speaking with any sort of authoritative voice.


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Chaldea
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Ok, KingsFalcon sorry I misunderstood.
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DeepDreamer
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Two quick bits of advice:

Whether 6,000 or 60,000, every word should matter.

Don't worry about word count until you're done.


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rcorporon
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I agree with Dreamer. Just write it. Go crazy and write. Then, trim the fat and see what's left over.
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Lynda
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I've read in quite a few places (books as well as message boards) that fantasy/sf books are acceptable up to 120,000 words. All other genres need to stop around 75-90,000 words, IIRC (since I write fantasy, I didn't pay that much attention to the requirements for other genres). This word count is the length agents are willing to consider. If you submit something more than 120,000, it better be the next Harry Potter (and since she was dealing with British publishers at first, I don't know that we can use her first sale as a comparison for those of us not in the UK).

Lynda


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Robert Nowall
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"Let it find its own length" is probably a good rule...but if you're planning to write something at novel-length, and it comes in at two thousand words, you're probably going to need to pad it out a little.

Actually nowadays I usually have some rough idea of about how long something'll be when I start it up. If it's intended to be a novel, I keep going...if it's intended to be a short story, I stop fairly soon. I can't recall anything that's gotten away from me---lengthwise, that is. (Contentwise, all the time.)


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Elan
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When I was researching the topic of "how many words does it take to make a book," I came across something written by OSC, who said he generally averages about 110,000 words. I've always admired his writing style as being clean, trim, and purposeful. So, I've figured that's a good standard to measure by.
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Robert Nowall
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Ah...that reminds me...a long long time ago, I ran across one of Asimov's autobiographical writeups. In this one, he mentioned that when he was writing his first book, about 1949, he asked how long it should be. "About seventy thousand words," he was told.

I think that's stuck with me as the ideal book length...even though it's obvious that normal book lengths have lengthened since those days. (Even Asimov's last bunch of novels was longer than that.)


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Marva
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Many books listed on Amazon have a Text Stats feature available. Hover over the book cover for a popup menu.

War and Peace (in English of course): 544,396 words YIKES!

The Harry Potter books don't seem to have the option. Most of the books with the Look Inside logo do.


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drahm
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its easy to find a close-to word-count on any book you're curious about, if you have the book. Take an average of the words per line and times it by the average lines per page. Then times it by the number of pages in the book. It won't be exactly, but close enough to give you an idea.
The most common I've found (all the dragon/fantasy books lining my shelves) have been 10-13 words, by 35 lines, and maybe 300-400 pages. So, what... an average of 105,000-140,000. (The first book for the authors being on the low end of the scale, of course)

Course, my in-process-novel is ranking over 300,000 (sigh) and i'm currently trying to cut it in half. Giving book one about 115,000 (currently, at least). Not sure how that's going to fly.

-drahm


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bro-k
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Most people seem interested in the Potter word counts so here is the official counts from Scholastic

Harry Potter
Book 1: 76,944
Book 2: 85,141
Book 3: 107,253
Book 4: 190,637
Book 5: 257,045
Book 6: 168,923

I guess as you get a fan base you have more power over how big a book can get. Of course the books originally had a target group that was young so I wonder if that might account for the smaller size of books one and two.


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