Dear Word Count,
I hate your freaking guts! Every time I edit or write a WIP (work in progress), I’m thinking about you. Just to tell my current novel well, I went from 75,000 to 95,000 words. I gulped and an ominous feeling made my skin prickle. I felt like this:
You are constantly creeping behind me like something stalking me and I can’t outrun no matter, and no matter how hard I try, you are still there!
I know, I know. As a reader, I sometimes get a little overwhelmed by how big the novel looks. My non-reader friends are like:
But I am not Leo Tolstoy who completed War and Peace at 587,287 words or Marcel Proust who novel, In Search of Lost Time, is the longest novel in the English language, which clocks in at 1, 267,069 words. I’m not them! I am me! I am a young adult writer. More than that, I’m a story a teller and the advice from agents and other writers has varied so much that sometime I want to do this after reading blogposts after a half hour or so:
So what do I do to myself? Google it of course. What I got was a whole lot of ambiguous numbers from different sources. Here are some (click on the link to see the page if you wish):
1. Literary Rejection: 50,000 to 80,000 words
2. Writersdigest: 40,000 t0 65,000 words
3. Litreactor.com: 55,000 to 90,000 words
4. Bookends Lit Agency Blog: 50,000 to 75,000 words, but 80,000 words can be safe.
5. Jennifer Represents: Wordcount Dracula (PS. LOVE THIS NAME): Realistic YA should clock in between 35,000 to 75,000 words, and fantasy YA should be within 50,000 to 150,000 words (the sweet spot is between 65,000 and 85,000 words)
The note at the bottom of Wordcount Dracula is that sometime a really good book goes through.
Here is a list of some popular YA books that I have read and their word counts:
- A Wrinkle in Time: 49,965 words
- The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants: 60,216 words
- Looking For Alaska: 64,033 words
- Thirteen Reasons Why: 62, 496 words
- Inkheart: 146,809 words
- The Selection: 80,248 words
- Anna and the French Kiss: 81,100 words
- Cinder: 87,661 words
- Divergent: 105,143 words
- Twilight: 118,975 words
- The Giver: 43,617 words
- Hunger Games: 99,750 words
- City of Bones: 130,949 words
- Speak: 46, 591
- A Great and Terrible Beauty: 95,605
- The Book Thief: 118,933
Word counts are all over the place. Here is my conclusion to this conundrum:
Write the best novel you can, using as many words it requires to tell the story the way it should be told. Edit out all the stuff that doesn’t need to be in there to help the story move along. Even if you really want to keep it, don’t if it does not help the main character tell his/her story. Extra words and scenes causes the word count beast chew you up and spit you out. Don’t let the beast win. Show the reader your story. Let us fall in love and break our heart and everything in between with as few words as possible.