Michelle Rowen

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Words, glorious words

This post might only be of interest to aspiring authors, but I wanted to do it. It’s always been an obsession of mine when it comes to writing.

Yes, the eternally exciting subject of WORD COUNT.

How much is enough? How much is too much? Amazon used to have a “search inside the book” option that let you know how many words were in a book. I found this endlessly fascinating. Obviously, I don’t have many hobbies. Alas, Amazon doesn’t do this anymore.

It made me realize that one book by a rather famous writer was only approx. 45,000 words long, but since it was set with larger type and spaced out leading (the term for the space between lines), it came out to around 300 pages.

I was going to buy the mass market paperback of Pillars of the Earth, but the type was so, so tiny I couldn’t do it without jeopardizing my already tired eyes if I read it (I ended up getting it on Kindle, a format in which typesetting doesn’t play much of a part…and my eyes are grateful for it).

It all depends on the publisher’s graphics and typesetting department. They need to fit a book on an alotted number of pages. More pages = more printing costs, so I can understand trying to shrink things — but hopefully not jeopardizing readability.

I tend to stay well under 100K for my single titles. I write fairly sparse — not a lot of space given to long descriptions. Since, well, I’m not a fan of writing them. I like writing dialogue, which tends to be a bit snappier in word count and pacing.

I received my ARCs (Advance Reading Copies) of BLOODLUST, which clocks in at 282 pages. I had to go back and double check my word count to see that it was virtually the same as NIGHTSHADE, which clocked in at 325 pages. I guess readers might think it’s a shorter book (if they give this sort of thing any thought), but it ain’t! It’s just typeset that way. And it looks fab — all lean and fit, like a Victoria’s Secret model — if I do say so myself.

(Note: I’ll be doing a blog giveaway for a couple ARCs really soon.)

I always spend way too much time in a first draft worrying that my book is going to be long enough. But it always comes in right where it should, usually between 80-90K. I don’t think I’d want to write much longer than that.

Anyway, thought I’d share my final word count and final printed book page count of some of my books, just for reference sake.

BLOODLUST — 84,800 words, 282 pages

NIGHTSHADE — 86,400 words, 325 pages

BITTEN & SMITTEN — 92,900, 369 pages (If I wrote this now, I’d probably trim 5K from it — at the time I thought a book HAD to be 100K and I felt bad that this wasn’t)

TALL, DARK & FANGSOME — 83,200 words, 334 pages

THE DEMON IN ME — 95,200 words, 323 pages (wow! I had no idea this one was so long!)

SOMETHING WICKED — 94,800, 348 pages (this one too! But more pages than TDiM, so you see what I mean about typesetting!)

DEMON PRINCESS: REIGN OR SHINE — 65,200, 274 pages

Young adult novels traditionally were shorter than single title books, but that’s changed a lot since Twilight and its ilk. For example, the YA I’m writing right now, DARK KISS, will likely clock in at about 80K — it just gives a bit more room to stretch my legs. But I just don’t see myself writing the 150K tomes I’m seeing out there. I don’t think I have that much to say!

I was actually a little surprised by the word counts above — especially those of the Living in Eden series. I don’t actually count words when I’m doing a first draft. I count pages. I aim for about 320-350 manuscript pages. If I can get anywhere near that, then I’m satisfied. I write in Microsoft Word, using double-spaced Times New Roman, 1″ margins at top and bottom, 1.25″ left and right. Here’s an example of how a finished manuscript page looks (and yes, it’s a very small sneak peek of BB&B, which is the next book I’ll be focusing on after I finish the YA):

So, basically, if you’re worried about how long your book needs to be…don’t. Just write the story, don’t try to pad in extra words or paragraphs just to plump things up, and trust the process to turn out a book the length it was meant to be. Just keep in mind, for single titles, try to aim for over 80K and you’re golden!

6 comments to “Words, glorious words”

  1. Megan Crane
    Comment
    1
     · April 1st, 2011 at 12:02 pm · Link

    OMG. OMG. OMG.

    Love the title of BB&B. LOVE seeing Sarah again! Love THAT PAGE!

    Love love love!!!

    I CAN’T WAIT!



  2. Jackie
    Comment
    2
     · April 3rd, 2011 at 5:17 pm · Link

    I’ve been trying to write my book for a while now and I worry that it won’t be long enough or that I’m gonna get finished with it and realize that it’s puny!
    I’m glad you wrote this post. It might help take some of that stress off. lol



  3. Ashleigh
    Comment
    3
     · April 3rd, 2011 at 7:05 pm · Link

    I’m writing a fantasy chick lit. I just started 700 words. Still loooong way to go “(
    I’m glad you wrote this post.

    Your biggest fan Ash’o



  4. Tori
    Comment
    4
     · April 4th, 2011 at 2:30 am · Link

    I’ve written short always. In a way it can be a good thing I guess. I don’t tend to write fat…I stick to the action. In fact I need to learn how to add more description. My YA novels are too short at this point. I’m hoping during this revision I can find some sub plots that will add more depth to my characters and my novels. I’m hoping that I’ll end up with 60-80k. At the moment I am no where near that amount.

    Michelle…in your experience…is it easier to add length to a novel…or is it easier to cut? Would you rather be the author that is asked to add words or take some away? At the moment I wish I wrote long tomes because I’ve always had a problem meeting wordcounts. It would be nice to see what the other side is like.

    By the way…I can’t wait for BLOODLUST! July can’t come soon enough! And your YA novels sound awesome. I actually had an angel and demon story I was thinking of writing. It will be interesting to see your take on it. :)

    Write and rock on!

    Love

    Tori



  5. Michelle Rowen
    Comment
    5
     · April 5th, 2011 at 2:48 pm · Link

    Tori… The “add” or “subtract” question is a bit tricky. If I was asked to add words, it would probably be because there needed to be additional scenes. Not just to plump up the prose with additional description. Another scene would add at least 1000 words and not slow things down. When I’m doing my last read of a draft, I usually trim about 2K from it just taking out extraneous words. I’ve never been asked to cut or add words to a book. A story is as long as it needs to be. If it’s too short, you just don’t have enough plot (or subplots). :)



  6. Anna Allegra
    Comment
    6
     · April 14th, 2011 at 5:06 pm · Link

    Interesting! I’ve never really paid much attention to page counts but I bet I will now.



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