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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Mini-Milestone Day!

Hello readers!

I am writing for two reason:

1. To let you know that I haven't forgotten about your lovely faces during this brief hiatus. You're in my thoughts!
2. To celebrate a miniature milestone! Today I officially surpassed the 70,000 word count.

Let's talk about word counts and milestones for a minute.

Why do we care about word counts? It's not an invalid questions. Great stories have been written in 26,000 words* and in 250,000+ words**. So why should we care or worry about word count?

Well, I have a schmantastic answer for you. And you're probably not going to like it. The fact is, if you do not have an agent/publisher already, then in order to get one you need to not give them reasons not to consider you. And a 300,000 word first novel, or the practically unmarketable 20,000 word novella, are perfect reasons for a literary agent or publisher to pass you over. 300,000 words is a pretty steep by in for an author who doesn't already have a readership. And 20,000 words for a adult novel*** doesn't seem a worthy investment because it's probably not going to sell. This isn't Robert Louis Stevenson's word anymore -- there are more and more people trying to become authors, and even a 20,000 word novella of merit can be easily overlooked.

So what is the appropriate word count?

It is ... nebulous. It varies for genre to genre, between age groups, between stories. To be pedantic****, a novel should be as long as it takes to tell the story. That's froofy and nice and everything, but it's not particularly helpful. Especially when you're wearing your author goggles -- it's hard to tell the difference between necessary storybuilding and rambling about how to make hay*****.

If you want a guide, take a look at this post of Writer's Digest. But don't take it too seriously -- no panties bunching is necessary. A guide is just that -- a guide. It's only a tool, I don't care if the title says that this is definitive. There is no definite here. But it you shoot in this ballpark, you'll have less going against you when you start to query.

So, why is 70,000 words a milestone? No, it's not because I'm done. I'm shooting for the 75,000-85,000 range. This is all about the psychological win. I encourage you all: set small goals, and celebrate like it's NYE 1999 when you hit them******. And then shake off the hangover and get going, knowing there's another party in our future. Writing can be arduous, frustrating and boring. You deserve to make it fun.

*That's you, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I just finished this for the first time. It. Was. AMAZING.
**Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix clocks in at just over 257,000. 
***Adult as in not middle grade for this example. I'm not talking 50 Shades of Grey
****And we writers do love to be pedantic.
*****I'm looking at you, Tolstoy.
******But without all the Y2K paranoia. (Why did we ever think that was going to be a problem?)

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