A Word about Word Count in Fiction

I seem to be obsessed with word count. I don’t mean that I worry about my stories having specific word counts, but I keep wondering how many words long a story is.

“How many words?” is the first question I have when people talk about their writing.

Many years ago, when I first started trying to write, I never lacked words. My stories didn’t have much plot, but words were never in short supply.

Now when I write, my stories have plots, but I sometimes write too few words, and I usually need to expand when I’m revising.

In fiction for adults, the number of words really doesn’t matter. Some people prefer short books, and some love long ones. It’s all about preference.

When I started working on a children’s book, the Editor told me that my story was too long for five-year-olds. My 6,000-word manuscript ended up being split into four books. The first one, Our Place: Monica and Brad Start School, is coming soon. For more information, please visit Hyacinth Grey’s Books for Young Readers.

I’ve heard people say that word count depends on a book’s genre. Romances might be about 70,000 words, but fantasy could run to 120,000 words. It’s true that a fantasy or science fiction novel needs more words to describe the world(s), the creatures in it/them, in addition to the normal things we all know which don’t need to be laid out as explicitly (or maybe they do, if you’re writing about intimate matters.)

If it’s all a matter of preference, then I think people should write the story that needs to be told, and the word count is only a number. I am aware that the traditional publishing industry does seem to have guidelines, if not rules, but I am writing about self-publishing, so I am not bound by those.

Even though word count is just a number most of the time, I will continue to ask: “How many words?”

What do you think about word count? Please leave a comment.



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