That got me thinking about word counts. One issue I ran into during my youth was that all my stories were extremely short. Always wanting to write a book, I made a few attempts, but always finished within a few thousand words.
I was one of those geeky, analytical kids. Heck, I'm a geeky, analytical adult. What that means for my writing, if I'm not careful, is that I have a tendency to get straight to the point. Just the facts. Get it over with.
This time, I'm writing a book. My plot has to be rich and full, with possible sub-plots running concurrently. I should add descriptions and character developing scenes. But, even doing that, would I have enough to fill a book? Not knowing how many words were actually in a book, I really didn't know the answer to that question.
Activate researcher mode!
After a bit of research, I learned that if I followed the guidelines I outlined in my previous post about formatting (double spaced, 1" margins, monospaced font) then I would run about 250 words per page.
After a bit more research, I learned:
- Short Story - Under 7,500 words
- Novelette - 7,500 to 17,500 words
- Novella - 17,500 to 40,000 words
- Novels - Over 40,000 words
- Romances - 50,000
- Fantasy/Sci-Fi - 60,000 to 80,000 (or more, with many fantasy novels being 125,000)
- Young Adult - 20,000 to 40,000
So now I had a goal. I knew I wanted to get to the 70,000 to 80,000 word mark. I have been writing a fantasy novel and those tend to be larger than the standard mainstream novels.
On to the next part. How do I find my word count? Most word processors out there today will give you a word count. This isn't always the same word count that publishers are looking for, sometimes it is. So how do you find a word count that publishers and agents will use? You look on their websites. Some have switched to the count word processors give and some stick to the old methods.
Here's the old method:
- Count the number of letters on a line. Include spaces. (And I'm assuming you're still using a monospaced font--a font where all the letters are the same size. Courier is a popular one.)
- Divide that number by six. The averge length of a typical word is six letters.
- Count the number of lines on the page. Again, include spaces/blank lines.
- Multiply the number you got when you divided by six and the number of lines on a page.
- Multiply that number by how many pages you have in your manuscript. (Round up to the nearest hundred.)
The discrepencies happen between the above math equation and word processor counts when there's a lot of spaces or blank lines--word processors don't count blank lines, whereas publishers do. I don't have many blank lines yet, so it wasn't really a big deal.
Turns out I was averaging about 230 words per page. Again, that's pretty typical. I had about 20,000 words at that point and still had quite a bit of plot to delve into. My fears of not having enough to write about were quelled for the moment.
The benefit of having a word count to aim for gave me a goal. Now I knew where I had to add to my story or substract. I could put more thought into the plot lines and not just guess that it would be in the ballpark.
I got my answers, so I deactivated research mode. With peace of mind, I was able to sit down and write. My concentration was again on the story and not those pesky random thoughts that tend to pop up at inopportune times.