The Word Count Dilemma

As I mentioned last week I’m within sight of the end of draft two. Work continues but there are two fairly important issues that are bothering me. The first is that I still haven’t found a title for the book and I have to before I submit it to an agent. The second issue is the word count.

There are ballpark word counts that agents and publishers look for in a finished novel and they vary according to genre. A Mills & Boon romance is acceptable at 45,000 words, whereas a fantasy novel could easily come in at 150,000. Commercial or literary fiction (broadly speaking, commercial fiction is mainly concerned with plot and literary fiction with characters) writers would aim for a final word count in the 80,000-100,000 bracket.

I’m guessing that my word count will be 65,000 when I’m finished which is a problem. Agents often feel that a short book can be underdeveloped, or that submitting something so far away from the guidelines means that the writer is unrealistic and unaware of how the process works. Here’s a link to an agent’s blog post for further reading on the issues around word count from their point of view.

I was talking to another writer about this and his advice was to write the book and “make it so good, they can’t turn it down” regardless of word count. Sensible advice and I’m trying to heed it. Anyway for other word nerds like me here’s a list of word counts for famous novels.

Of course if you get to 100,000 words and your book looks like this, you may have a problem.

2 thoughts on “The Word Count Dilemma

  1. Sherry

    Hey Alex, great news of progress on the book and can’t wait to read the final version! How about Tale of Three Women????
    Have you read ‘Everything is Illuminated’ by Jonathan Safran Foer yet? It is brilliant I think and if you haven’t do read it and let me know what you think. Lots of love and keep going strong,
    Sherry x

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