in which i stress about word counts

so, sometimes the art of writing is frustrating.

i’ll be honest. writing itself isn’t frustrating. i know a lot of people talk about writer’s block, and while i do suffer in some regards to it (i really need to have the characters speak to me in order to finish), if i’m stuck on one story i move on to another. currently – yeah, i know it’s insane – i’m working on 6 books.

what’s frustrating is word count.

when i first sent out a round of queries to agents, i ignorantly typed in that my first book (of the series) was around 270,000. now – when i used to write, i never cared about things like word count. i wrote what the story was and then edited based on what suited the pace of the story best. personally, i tend to lean towards bigger book or books in series, because if i like the story enough, i want to stay with those characters as long as possible. skinny little books have their merits, but sometimes when i’m done reading, i feel cheated. so to me, bigger is better.

and even though everyone who’s read a matter of fate (the first of my annar series) likes it and has asked to read more about the characters. so i was a little shocked when i got 6 form rejection letters within two weeks. and i wondered – did my query suck? (honestly? probably). but then i began a little research and discovered that there was something in my query that probably stopped any agent or assistant from going any further: my word count.

more than one blog i read extols the evils of larger word counts. according to the query shark, a book around 160k can’t sell in today’s market. (note my freak out, considering a matter of fate is currently around 237k). and then, just for giggles, the query shark decides to also let you know, 85k is simply not enough.

somebody sounding very much like me (excepting the fact it’ll be a cold day in hell before i write YA paranormal) wrote in and asked the rejecter what to do when your book kicks ass around 200K and everyone who reads it says it’s good where it is. the heartening advice was to cutcutcut and then fughetaboutit until you publish a much smaller book.

the sickeningly talented sarah rees brennan (of the demon lexicon fame) posted about word count today and what’s typically acceptable for YA (FYI, i’ve read it to be anywhere from 60k-100k). her kickass book was around 90k, and her next (just to prove the rejecter right) will be around 130k.

i don’t have the word counts on any of the harry potter books, nor the twilight books (i have read that stephenie meyer was surprised that twilight sold in the first place since it was clearly above the norm for YA word counts) – but i’m pretty sure all of them are well over 100k. harry potter and the deathly hallows clocks in at 784 pages; breaking dawn is at 756. while both are considered crossover appeal books (and admittedly the last of each series), word count and book length hardly held back massive sales.

so what to do? do you stick to artistic integrity and hold fast, demanding your story takes the amount of words you’ve written to fully tell it’s tale? or do you kowtow to expectations, slash and burn your baby until it’s a tiny husk of what it once was, and pray that’ll it’ll get bought then?

i’m sort of leaning towards option #1. but then again, option #1 may mean none of you actually get to read my books unless i give you a copy to read!


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