For the Blogging From A to Z Challenge I’m doing you all a huge favor and filling you in on the 26 Things To Hate About Writing.** I’m hoping by the end of April, I will have convinced all of you not to indulge in the wild insanity of becoming a writer. If I can save even one person from offering themselves up in sacrifice to the mad and fickle word gods, I will have done some good in this world.
How long is a book? One million words? Two million? At least five pages, right? As if writing wasn’t hard enough, there’s no set amount of words that make up a book. Some books are short, some books are long, most fall somewhere in between and here we are, us writers, with no guidance. Would you tell a surgeon to just cut however much he wants? Would you tell a cook to just put however much butter in a recipe he feels like? I mean, butter is great, but you can’t just make a whole cake out of butter. Or can you? Should you? I mean…mmm, butter.
One of the worst things about writing is figuring out how many words make up a book. We wander about, all anxious and squirrelly, being told to shut up and write stuff and then see if it’s long enough. When considering your word count, you should remember:
– The general accepted length of books varies by genre. Fantasy and sci-fi novels tend to be longer than mysteries and romances because you gotta describe spaceships and wizard spells and stuff. However, books still fall outside these guidelines in all genres. How many words should you write? I don’t know. Write at least six words, that sounds about right (that includes the title and your byline).
– Check the guidelines of the agent or publisher you’re thinking of sending the book to. They usually let you know how many words they want. Sometimes they’re not helpful at all though, so just assume between one word and ten million, that narrows it down.
– The word count of your book will change, and maybe dramatically, between the first draft and edits/rewrites. This sucks when you wrote 60,000 words only to discover one paragraph is useable.
Word count is an amorphous thing and you’ll get better at hitting targets the longer you write. Paying attention to guidelines and studying other books in your genre will help. You’ll learn to tailor your stories for the length that’s needed. Or you won’t, and you’ll keep writing encyclopedia-thick books that people only buy to use as doorstops and to reach the butter on the top shelf. It’s too bad there isn’t a publisher out there whose focus is publishing bricks and stepstools. Maybe I should start one, and then I wouldn’t have to edit my books down from their initial ridiculous word counts.
**Disclaimer: If you haven’t figured it out, these posts are pure satire and simply a humorous way to vent my writing frustrations. No offense is intended to anyone. Please, become or continue being a writer. It’s awesome, I swear. It’s super…duper, awesome…heh heh.
Urban fantasy and paranormal romance author.