Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Word count anyone?

Whenever you go to a publisher's submission guidelines, you see that the publisher is looking for stories that fit between certain word counts, and if you submit a story that isn't in that certain word count, they'll flat out reject it. This alone is enough to make one stare at the word count meter on their word processor, but after a dose of Nano on top of those publisher guidelines, the problem can lead to obsession over word count, as an author friend and I discussed a couple of days ago.

Then there're the authors who go by page count. I know of ones who focus more on that than word count, and they're probably just as bad about having to get to that certain page count. Sweat with Sven follows this pattern of having to write 4-6 pages a day. They as well translate that into word count at the end though.

Another friend said to just write the story and submit it based on the length it happens to be. But is that realistic? How about after you've already gotten a book published and you're writing the sequel? I don't think it's that easy, especially if one is looking to get a novel published. I have to have a goal in front of me to get there.

Word counts are a necessary evil, but how do you handle juggling a good story and fitting it into a certain word count for publisher guidelines? Is there such a thing as being obsessed over word counts? Have you felt this way? Do you agree with my friend that you should just write the story and submit based on the length it happens to get to? Let me know. *smiles*

4 deadly screams:

Marko_Bob said...

Word count is a necessary evil that many authors have to fight with. Most important aspect of word count is the length of the book. Duh? Most publishers want books nearing 300 pages or more in order to provide good, lasting reading for their customers. As such, I understand it. However, authors do get stressed about it. Reaching a certain word count can be a pain. I've done NaNo a few years ago and managed to reach the 50k words in a month.

As a reader I love books that take a while to read. I read a lot and quite fast, and depending on the subject, a book can last anywhere between a day and a few weeks. I love longer books that have a strong storyline and deliver a sense of achievement, or even history, after reading them. It took a while, the storyline moved on and changed. There is a history between you and the book. That, as a reader, is really important to me.

Word count is a pain, yet it still is a way for the publishers to maintain some quality control, other than editing. Anyway, thanks for reading this all. :)

Tierney O'Malley said...

Hi Sarah,
I must say, this is a good blog. :D

“Another friend said to just write the story and submit it based on the length it happens to be. But is that realistic?”

Maybe this works for your friend, Sarah. For me, I have to have a goal.
When I go into a battle (writing is sometimes a battle we must win :D), I always arm myself with a good plan, theme, setting, characters, dialogue, imagery, plot and a purpose of whether to write a full length or a novella.

To me it is important to decide whether the story is going to be a short or full. It helps me create the story if I am targeting a certain length.
When I write a novella, I have to keep in mind that to make it an effective short story, the story must take place in a single day, or a week. And there is only one single event where I will focus the life of the main character. In my stories, my characters are already acquainted, secretly in love, thrown together because of the conflict then end the story with a resolution. Short and fast paced.
So knowing the length is important.

An author once told me that when I write I should have a target or a goal. Okay, what do I want? Say, I want to sub for a Strip tease line. I must look at what the publisher is asking for that particular line including the word count. The pub wants a quick hot read. 10 to 20k. A short. Fine, I‘ll mold the story based on that. I have to have a goal.

“Word counts are a necessary evil, but how do you handle juggling a good story and fitting it into a certain word count for publisher guidelines?“

:D Measure your door before bringing in your brand new refrigerator, otherwise, you’ll end up removing the doorjamb, the door itself or return the dratted refrigerator because leaving it outside is out of the question.

Any good story will fit in any guidelines with a careful planning (speaking for myself here). The guidelines are there to help the authors not to make them feel miserable—I think. Write a story based on what the publisher is asking for and you might avoid juggling, squeezing or stretching the story.
Know beforehand where you want that story to go. Okay, you finished a wonderful story, but where does it fit?

“Is there such a thing as being obsessed over word counts? Have you felt this way?”

I’m pretty sure there are those who watch the word count as they type. I’m not. Why obsess over word counts? I suppose it gives one a sense of accomplishment.

If you find this comment boring and senseless, I apologize. Decongestant, antibiotics, headache and lack of sleep are my excuse. *sniff* Achoo!!!

Sarah Mäkelä said...

Marko and Tierney, thank you so much for the wonderful comments. I really appreciate them. I really hope you get to feeling better soon, Tierney! *HUGS* Your comments were neither boring or senseless.

vagabondsaint said...

I tend to not think about word counts when I write. . .but then again, I am unpublished as of yet *s* However, I consider myself a storyteller first, so to me the story is of paramount importance; length and publishing concerns are why editing exists *s* but that's just me. . .