New writers get advice all the time about following the lead of already established, favorite and best-selling authors. With that said, a lot of these best-selling authors write large volumes of words with hundreds of pages to back them up. And then when unknown authors write that 120,000 – 150,000 word novel, polish it and publish it on Lulu or CreateSpace, they are told their novels should NOT be longer than 70,000 words. There are some articles floating around out there, basically saying that unknowns go to bookstores and see these huge books in the genre they write in and attempt to do the same.
The same people writing said articles, could very well be the same ones giving the tips on following the lead of those best-selling authors. Can you say CONTRADICTION? I’ll cut them some slack because most of the word count advice is geared toward agent/traditional publishing guidelines. It’s more expensive to churn out the heavier word count. For those of us published through CreateSpace, we know this all too well when it comes to our pricing options for the heavy. I’ve heard writing professionals spout off things like, “unless you’re Stephen King or the likes of, you shouldn’t try to do this or that.” HELLO, Stephen King and the likes of, offered up their own uniqueness to the story. Oh…they were unknowns at first.
But on behalf of the avid writer, I say, maybe they don’t care about the thickness of a best-seller’s book. Maybe they march to the beat of their own drum. Maybe the story they write is above the average count because they can’t stop until certain scenes are fulfilled in one volume, leading to sequel volumes. Maybe they should break their work down to produce the extra volumes…but maybe they don’t opt to be status quo-y. I mean, that’s right up there with telling someone they aren’t going to make it as a writer if they don’t change their work to fit this or that.
What is a writer to do?
Firstly, writers should follow their gut. Trim the fat, make your book shorter, if that’s what you want to do. As much as I want my books to be read and enjoyed by the many, I want to enjoy writing them. I don’t want to be stifled and I sure as heck don’t want my writing to be either. Sure, guidelines need to be followed to an extent. Just please don’t get so hung up on that rule to the point of killing your work. Your book could be an epic (usually over 110,00 words).
The only tips I have on word count for writers (new and seasoned) is; write your story, show and tell it ’til your gut tells you it’s finished. Trim the fat, polish it, break it up in volumes if you must, but do it on your terms, your way. Negotiate to your satisfaction. Remember, if they don’t believe in your work, they won’t believe in you and you should go elsewhere. While I decided to make my second novel shorter, I have no regrets that my debut novel is published with over 124,000 words.
Where do you draw the line on word count?
Some links to articles on word count: