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Word count curiosity. (1 Viewer)

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indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
Do others here have a goal for the final word count of their novels before the start writing the first draft?

I do, but I'm a plotter and imagine that others with a different process start out with different goals.

Novels within my chosen genre generally run between 80K and 120K words. I plot like crazy with the goal of the early draft of the story coming in at about 103-105K words, then trim it back during edit.

My first draft is fairly lean because of the extent of my plotting (I go through 5-10 versions of the plot before the writing begins).

I'm borderline OCD, and so image that everyone else is more freewheeling than I am. I'm curious about how others write; do pantsters just wing it, then attack their first draft with a chainsaw if it comes in too long?

There's no right or wrong - individuals are... well, individual. The goal is to produce a novel, how you do that doesn't actually matter much, and yet, I'm curious - maybe I can learn something from how others do their work.

Threads like this pop up from time to time, and I always find them interesting.

Again - to be absolutely clear, there's no right or wrong way, the final outcome is all that matters.
 
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vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
Yes. I either plan on 100K, or the low 80s. If I'm writing to low 80s, I generally come in about 83-85K+.

My WIP is going to come in at around 102K or 103K.

In my first novel, I trimmed a couple of thousand words, but a lot of that was in two backstory sections I decided to cut out. I'm pretty solid on leaving out extraneous adjectives, adverbs, and filler words as I write, so I don't lose many words there in edit. If I take something out now, it's most often a superfluous phrase or sentence. However, I also add a bit here and there if I see a need for clarity, so I come close to breaking even.
 
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JJBuchholz

Senior Member
I mainly write short stories and novellas, and I have these parameters that I use:

- Flash fiction: 1200 words or less
- Short story: Minimum 2500 words
- Novellas: Between 7500 and 15000 words

This does not include any story that I have broken up into two or three installments, to help
differentiate between each part.

-JJB
 

Ralph Rotten

Staff member
Mentor
I don't care for word counts...for a number of reasons.

Firstly, as an Indie it is irrelevant how many words the story contains. My best sellers are all binge books (Calizona was over 230,000 words.)
Secondly, it is always easier to cut than insert when editing. So really you wanna be verbose when writing, then trim the fat afterwards.
Third; I see too many writers substituting daily word count for quality. Who cares if you wrote a thousand words today...were they good words? Or did you just fill the page?

When you write, write without any inhibition. Write what you really feel, say the awful things that you think the editors will hate, write it all...then trim it in edit.
Don't not write a scene because you think some editor may frown on it.
Swing for the fences when you write. Shock, dismay, and alarm the reader. No one wants to read a tame book.
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
I don't care for word counts...for a number of reasons.

Firstly, as an Indie it is irrelevant how many words the story contains. My best sellers are all binge books (Calizona was over 230,000 words.)
Secondly, it is always easier to cut than insert when editing. So really you wanna be verbose when writing, then trim the fat afterwards.
Third; I see too many writers substituting daily word count for quality. Who cares if you wrote a thousand words today...were they good words? Or did you just fill the page?

When you write, write without any inhibition. Write what you really feel, say the awful things that you think the editors will hate, write it all...then trim it in edit.
Don't not write a scene because you think some editor may frown on it.
Swing for the fences when you write. Shock, dismay, and alarm the reader. No one wants to read a tame book.

Your secondly and third are a bit contradictory. If your advise is to be verbose and then trim, then your third is irrelevant. There is value to maintaining momentum.

But there is another consideration. Let's posit four levels of writers.
1. Rank beginners without much natural talent and haven't yet worked to develop the skills needed to write effectively. It doesn't matter which 1000 words they write, they haven't yet moved up to the level of producing something anyone will be interested in reading. But they are hopefully getting some practice. A writer can't know their failures until they're in print to evaluate.
2. Beginners who have developed some skills, or have some natural talent. This level of writer is closer to producing an interesting work, but they aren't there yet, so again, whatever 1000 words they're on is still practice.
3. A talented writer who isn't making rookie mistakes, at least very often. Any 1000 words they produce is likely to play, or at the least work in revision will dress it up.
4. Great writers. They can write 1000 words about eating lunch in McDonalds and make it interesting.

So that 1000 words falls into one of three categories: Practice, potential, or ready to go. All three are valuable. Get the 1000 words written and be happy to be writing.

But the key for levels one and two is to know where they need improvement and act on it. Lots don't. And I don't fill the gap between #2 and #3. A writer makes that leap, or they don't.
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
As a plotter, I don't really know how pantsters handle a target word count for the project (not a daily number). Do pantsters know they are writing a short story, novella, a full novel, or a doorstop when they start out? I was curious, which was why I asked this question.

I always know the characters and their arcs, as well as the story beginning and end before I type or write anything. With that information, I can guess the length of the work, and so adjust the plot (the spaces the characters move through between the beginning and ending) accordingly.

Each of us have our own way of developing our product - and NO ONE is wrong. Aside from grammar (etc), there is no wrong way to write.

I've ridden motorcycles throughout the US and into Canada, and these days I always know where I'm going and where I'll stop along the way. When I was younger though, I would just jump on my bike and take off; at the time I believed that adventure should be unpredictable. As I aged, the glamour of winging it became tarnished. I've run out of gas in the middle of the Nevada desert, ridden through snow and rain, slept under a bridge when I couldn't find lodging for the night. That stuff was fine when I was young, but now my old body prefers a nice hotel room and a place where I can get something good to eat.

My first book was a long - LONG ramble. It probably came in at over 250,000 words. It was impossible to edit, let alone market. For me, wandering when I write doesn't work - but for some it does, and that is awesome.
 

Backstroke_Italics

Senior Member
I absolutely set a word-count goal for myself, simply because otherwise I know I won't end up with something in the range I want. It's tough to market things that are odd lengths, even in these amazing times. But if I knew I could sell anything I write, I would probably just let the ideas flow however they choose to flow.
 

Olly Buckle

Mentor
Patron
No one wants to read a tame book.

No, that's you, Ralph. The 22, Scotland street series, for example, is one of its publisher's best sellers. It's about ordinary people in Edinburgh, about the most bourgeois city in the world I should think. People like Indiana Jones, they also like soap operas, readers don't come in as many types as writers, there are always a few nobody wants to read, but it's not because they are too exciting or tame, it's usually bad writing , whatever that is.
 

JJBuchholz

Senior Member
I don't care for word counts...for a number of reasons.

To each his or her own, of course.

Firstly, as an Indie it is irrelevant how many words the story contains.

This is too much of a blanket statement. Just because I have word 'targets' does not mean I focus on the word count and
nothing else. My word 'targets' are rough parameters, because sometimes I have a tendency to forget which manuscript
is going to be sent off to publishers, so I started making targets and checking word counts every so often.

Third; I see too many writers substituting daily word count for quality. Who cares if you
wrote a thousand words today...were they good words? Or did you just fill the page?

I never substitute word count for quality, and I'm a little surprised that one might assume that someone keeping track
of a word count would equate to garbage being written. This is why we have an editing process.

When you write, write without any inhibition. Write what you really feel, say the awful things that you think the editors
will hate, write it all...then trim it in edit. Don't not write a scene because you think some editor may frown on it.
Swing for the fences when you write.

This I agree with wholeheartedly.

-JJB
 

Terry D

Retired Supervisor
There are a number of considerations. First, as Ralph mentioned, if you are planning on self-publishing, you can be more liberal with your word count. If you plan to go the traditional route, you really should know what agents and publishers are looking for in terms of word count. Yes, stories abound about first time sales of books with 200,000 words or more, but those are like lottery winners; showy and rare. For the rest of us, we do well to pay attention if an agent says they are looking for the next great thriller novel in the 90,000 to 110,000 word range. Treat the business as a profession and behave professionally. Adhering to word count limits is a part of that.

Sticking to word count guidelines is even more important when dealing with short stories. The word limits given in submission guidelines for magazines and anthologies are, in the greatest part, not flexible.
 

JJBuchholz

Senior Member
I love it when the noobs tell me I'm wrong. :)

In what context are you using that term?

Also, it's seems to be a precarious stance to take by someone who is 'more experienced' then the rest of us,
and in what I'm not sure.

I would think that because we're all writers here, that a certain level of respect between all of us might be
maintained instead of turning into some people labelling others in that fashion.

Just my two cents.

-JJB
 
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