I sent him a link to some information that I hoped would help him out. And told him that having a low word count is much better than having one that’s too high.
Most editors have a range that they want for a particular genre. If you’re a debut novelist, then they definitely don’t want a 130,000+ word book from you. They probably don’t even want a 110,000 word book from you. It would be considered risky for them…after all, a book that long would be expensive to print and debut novelists don’t have a track record for sales or a following.
There is definitely, though, some leeway with word count in a manuscript. If you’re a few thousand words over or under the range, it’s probably not going to kill your chances. You can always bulk up a book with a great subplot or edit out extras to bring a word count down.
I do keep half an eye on my word count as I’m writing. For one thing, it helps me know if I’m meeting my goals each day. For another, it helps save me some time after my first draft is done if my word count is close to my target.
For additional information on word count and tips for bumping your word count up or down, try these links:
A Few Words on Word Counts: How to Beef Up or Slim Down (especially for freelance writers, but some tips that will help novelists, too)
The Writer’s Knowledge Base has many articles on word count.
Will the rise of e-publishing mean that word count might rise again? This article from the BookEnds Literary Agency suggests it might, but I’m not so sure. It seems to me that our 21st century world seems to make us all more distracted—phones ringing, texts coming in, Twitter feeds and Facebook status updates. Do we have the attention span for longer books, even if cost isn’t an issue anymore?
How close do you track word count? Do you usually find yourself writing over or under your target? (I’m frequently a little under, myself.)