Sunday, July 19, 2009

Book Length

WarandPeace I read really quickly. But usually I don’t automatically gravitate toward books on the shelf that are thick when I’m browsing at the bookstore.

Thick books usually equal lots of characters, complicated plot lines…maybe even a family tree or a map at the beginning of the book.

If I see a family tree at the beginning of a book, it’s going back on the shelf. I wish I had that kind of time, but I don’t.

Long Book Avoidance doesn’t happen when it’s an eagerly awaited sequel or part of a series I’m reading. I just finished the many-paged Private Patient by P.D. James. But I start out with an advantage with series books---I already know some of the characters.

Right now I’m writing 70,000--75,000 word books. I think my reading preferences have seeped over into my writing preferences. Maybe someday I’ll want to make a stab at some epic saga of a book, but that day has definitely not come yet.

Thoughts on Word Count:

Personally, it’s not something I like to think about when I’m writing. But I can tell if I’m in the right ball-park with my word count as I’m writing the first draft.

One editor (Moonrat’s) thoughts on word count for debut novels: summing up, the highest word count she’d recommend for a debut would be 100,000 words. She thinks that some editors would rather see 80,000. She says:

“There are practical reasons for this rule! It's not (entirely) that editors are close-minded pigs. The reason is 100,000 words casts off at about 480 typeset pages. That would make your book...well, a lot of pages--astronomically expensive to produce. Since literary fiction (particularly debuts) sell in smaller numbers than genre fiction, the potential profit margin on your book would be even lower than on another debut. Publishers would be very, very wary of the financial risk they were undertaking.”

If you’re looking for just general, ballpark information on word counts for various genres, try: . Ronnie Smith, the author of this article, is careful to remind the reader that these are generalizations.

As for me, I’m going to look forward to the day when I can study a novel’s maps and family trees to my heart’s content.