The Journeyman Author

On writing for writers.

Tag Archives: genre writing

A last reminder! I’ve moved!

Hello again!

This is just one final reminder to all my followers here at wordpress.com that I’ve moved to a self-hosted wordpress.org blog. I was, unfortunately, unable to move my email subscribers, so you guys are missing out on new posts! Since I’ve left, two have been posted:

Eight things writers should avoid to be productive

Four tricks to reading like a writer–part one

Check it out! I would hate to lose your support, but I understand if you don’t feel like following me anymore (though I may cry a little bit–no pressure or anything).

Thanks again for reading!

Cheers,
–Mary

One hundred thousand words of wisdom.

(Warning: this post has some not-very-nice opinions about The Twilight Saga and The Inheritance Cycle. If you are a sensitive soul, read on at your own risk.)

When I first started writing my novel, I fell into the common trap most new authors do. I admit it: I thought length was the proper measure of quality. In my poorly-structured defense, I started writing it when I was fifteen. At that time, the biggest books on the fantasy market for people my age were the fifth and sixth installments of the Harry Potter series, the Twilight Saga, and the Eregon series. Though I really liked Harry Potter (and to this day believe Twilight and Eregon are complete slop), I was dealing with an array of books well above the expected word count for most authors. I took those exceptions to be the rule for fantasy, and I stuck with it.

The first complete draft of my book Martyrs was over 140,000 words long. Naturally, as a first draft, it was in desperate need for some serious revision and sharp reduction, but I wasn’t really aware of just how much I would need to edit.

I had the general idea that I would need to cut it down significantly before I stood a chance at getting it published, but it wasn’t until my novel writing class that I got a better idea. My professor told us most full-length novels are between 70,000 and 100,000 words long. This limit was especially true for writers trying to publish for the first time. Ultimately, the more words your novel is, the more pages it will be. The more pages it will be, the more costly it will be for publishers to print.

I’m never convinced with clear-cut, black and white answers, though, so I did my research. I didn’t expect to find contrasting information (which is good for me, considering I found no contrasting information), but I wanted more details than my professor had given me. I stumbled upon The Swivet. They have a blog post specifically about novel word count, which seems to depend more upon genre than anything else. I’ve pulled the following information from that post.

Middle grade fiction = 25k to 40k
YA fiction = 45k to 80k
Paranormal romance = 85k to 100k
Romance = 85k to 100k
Category romance = 55k to 75k
Cozy mysteries = 65k to 90k
Horror = 80k to 100k
Western = 80k to 100k
Mysteries, thrillers and crime fiction = 75k to 100k
Mainstream/commercial fiction/thrillers = 65k to 100k
Science fiction & fantasy
—> Hard science fiction = 90k to 110k
—> Space opera = 90k to 120k
—> Epic/high/traditional/historical fantasy = 90k to 120k
—> Contemporary fantasy = 90k to 100k
—> Romantic SF = 85k to 100k
—> Urban fantasy = 90k to 100k
—> New weird = 85k to 110k
—> Slipstream = 80k to 100k
—> Comic fantasy = 80k to 100k
—> Everything else = 90k to 100k

The Swivet writer, Colleen Lindsay, goes far more in-depth about some of these genres and their respective word counts, so I highly suggest you check out the blog.

Anyway, this gave me a very clear idea on what I should be shooting for when working on my novels. Ultimately, it still holds very true to what my novel writing professor said: keep your work under 100,000 words. It looks like that may be the standard for even successfully published authors in many genres.

Though don’t forget: there are exceptions. Remember those series I discussed at the beginning of this post? The Harry Potter Series, The Twilight Saga, and The Inheritance Cycle? Ultimately, those can be explained away. The first book in The Harry Potter series was well below 100,000 words, and a subsequent sequal to a very successful first book is naturally able to maintain a high word-count and retain the kind of sales a publisher would want. As for Christopher Paolini, I’ve heard rumors that he got published because his parents owned or had some kind of connection in the publishing house. Believe what you will, this explanation makes sense to me considering Paolini’s horrendous writing. As for Twilight, I’m really not sure how that snuck through with the dreary story and bad writing, but it did.

My point is, there are exceptions. As a general safety net, though, it would be wise for writers to assume that their manuscript is not an exception, and these word count guidelines are a wonderful resource.

May they help you as much as they’ve helped me!

Cheers
–Mary

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