Welcome to my Writer’s Block!
We are talking about word count today. Whenever anyone asks me about books I have written or am working on, they inevitably ask me about how long it is. Truth is I know that they want to know how long it is, in pages. Yet, I answer them in word count.
“Sixty-eight thousand words? How many pages is that?” they ask. And I know there is a formula for figuring it out in a general sense. For the purposes of being able to answer those questions about page count, the following information is listed on fionaraven.com:
Using your current word count and the appropriate formula below, calculate the number of pages you can expect in your finished book:
Your word count divided by 390 = page count for a 5.5″ x 8.5″ book For example: 50,000 divided by 390 = 128.20 pages
Your word count divided by 475 = page count for a 6″ x 9″ book For example: 50,000 divided by 475 = 105.26 pages
In the examples above, use the 5.5” x 8.5” for fiction, and the 6” x 9” for non-fiction.
But Back To Word Count 🙂
Word count is how writers determine what kind of baby we have: is it a short story, novella, epic novel? We can generally tell by the word count. There are several sources for a description of word count “requirements”, but it is also important to realize there is also some grey area there as well. I tend to lean toward the more flexible word count designations.
Writer’s Digest has a very good post about it here, where they show optimal, acceptable, and unacceptable ranges for just about any fiction book and level. I like this article, because of that “grey area” I spoke about earlier. Nothing I do is ever black and white. I have said this other places on my blog, but the arts, to me, are living things. They evolve, grow and develop in differing ways.
Does word count really matter? I think it does. If you pitch a book to an editor at a press or to a literary agent, it really should fall into the word count range for the genre that it is. The agents and editors know the market. They know what readers specific genres expect as far as word count. So, I think it does matter.
What happens if your novel falls short of the desired word count? All is not lost. While I believe in word count ranges, if a story is well told and it’s only a novella length piece, maybe that’s what it was meant to be. And if your story explodes into the hundreds of thousands for word count? Perhaps you have a series on your hands!
Is word count something you should focus on from the beginning of a project? Maybe, maybe not. For example, I believe in a free-flow writing process. I do like outlines (a LOT!), but when actually doing the writing of a first draft, I get the ideas down, and fill in gaps later. I tend to be a very lean writer, generally speaking. I don’t think I could ever write a novel of epic length. It doesn’t suit my style.
But if it is November 1, and I am embarking on another trip through NaNoWriMo, word count is everything to me! I want to win, so my goal is 50K or more words by the end of the month.
How do you feel about word count? Do you follow any hard and fast rules, or are you an embracer of the grey area, like me? Comment below! I love to connect with my readers J
If you are an author looking to find an agent, then it’s wise to follow the rules and stay within the range of word counts. When writing YA fiction I’m aiming for 65K words more or less. Like you I can never write a very long novel and I don’t see the point. I don’t write an outline but have the idea for the ending. I write a short draft of the basic story from start to finish with maybe 20K words. Then I slowly expand each chapter and think how can I add another subplot. Once I have a version with 50K words I know that I have a novel. Best wishes with your novels.
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Thanks for commenting! I totally agree about the importance of staying within the range. If you plan to sub it out to agents, they know what is expected by publishers and readers. Good luck to you, too!
Now that we are talking I wonder about you being musician. Can you elaborate what do you perform as musician? Also composing? Thanks.
I am a flutist and music teacher in a public school. I teach middle school aged students. I don’t do a lot of composing these days, but I used to enjoy it.
Thanks. I stumbled into writing after writing a Musical and decided to write it also as a novel. I like your time travel story set in Vienna during 19th century. I have a chapter set in Vienna but during the 21st century. There is a mistake, I think, in your summary of your novel Misty Dawn and Violet. Suddenly Misty and Violet turn into Lucy and Ethel.
Lol! I have Lucy and Ethel in there as a comparison to the characters in I Love Lucy. Thanks for the compliments on my time travel, too! Thanks for chatting with me today and good luck! 🙂 It was nice to chat!
[…] posted about word counts on this blog before, too. I think it’s really important to keep them in mind because agents […]