Posts Tagged ‘agents’

it’s got good size

August 26, 2009

I’m not sure where I was reading about it, or even if it was true, but an agent was relating stories about how they hate a particular month because it is a month that they get a ton of slush material and the majority of it stops at around fifty thousand words. This is because it is part of a national “writing month” or something that encourages everyone to try writing a fifty thousand word novel so it has people just writing to cover the word spread. There were stories of works ending on the fifty thousanth word, regardless of where they were in the story, paragraph or sentence. They hit the magic number, they stop. The novel is done. Over. Complete. Fin.

While the stories were funny, I think they also held a bit of every writer’s worry, or at least the worry of every writer who has yet to secure a book deal; is it long enough? Or, is it too long?

While the idea of quitting a story at a particular word count is absurd to me, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that size was something I try to measure and evaluate myself with. I’ve went so far as typing pages of other books up in word and running the number count on them. I found that the average novel has 330-450 words per page. Why or how they came within this range, I don’t know. I’m not sure I care. But, when I’m particularly curious about the length of whatever I’m working on, I find myself taking a number within that range and dividing my total number of words by it to see where it comes out at.

Should this concern me? Should this concern any writer? Ideally, probably not. But, realistically, we all know that there are predescribed size limits for our writing that we must meet to be marketed as what we wish to be marketed as. For novels, I’ve generally heard that seventy thousand words is a short novel, ninety thousand is the sweet spot and anything appreciably longer than that is a longer novel. At least by today’s novel standards (outside of the fantasy sections where 800 page epics seem to be the norm).

And I know that when my first novel crossed that seventy thousand word barrier that I was more than a little pleased with myself.  It marked the passing of a threshold, the movement into another realm – if not physically then at least emotionally and psychologically I understood this – and was something that could never be taken away from me.

For whatever reason, knowing that what I was continuing to write was technically of novel length was uplifting and help propel me through several more pages before falling back into the real work of writing that bends backs and breaks shoulders.