Thursday, February 4, 2010

Words Count, But What's the Right Word Count?

Today in St. Peters, MO: Cloudy, high 40 degrees, chance of flurries tonight.

If you've ever wondered how many words are appropriate for your manuscript, you should check out this article: Word Count for Novels and Children's Books - The Definitive Post by Chuck Sambuchino.

As an editor at Writer's Digest, Sambuchino edits the Guide to Literary Agents and the Screenwriters and Playwriter's Market. In his article, he has broken down the general rules for word counts by genre. While he notes there are some exceptions to these rules, he also notes that new writers cannot assume they are the exception to the rule.

Here's a synopsis of the counts; for details and further explanations, read his excellent post:

* Adult Novels: Commercial and Literary - 80,000 and 89,999
* Sci-fi and Fantasy - 100,000 - 115,000
* Middle grade - 20,000 - 45,000
* Young Adult - 55,000 - 69,999 (this category is very flexible)
* Picture Books - 500-S600 words (32 pages)
* Western - 50,000-80,000 (60,000 is a good target)
* Memoir 80,000-89,999 ( 70,000-79,000 is not a terrible thing)

As a reader and a writer I've always known that words matter. I also know the length of my manuscript is important. Now I can count on it!


  1. Hi Everyone,
    In my earlier post I wrote that Mr. Sambuchino was a literary agent.
    In reality, he is an editor at Writer's Digest. Sambuchino edits the Guide to Literary Agents and the Screenwriters and Playwriter's Market.
    Thanks, Tricia S., for catching my mistake. It's good to have friends with eagle eyes.

  2. Hi Donna! Wonderful information! Thanks for always sending out news we need/want to know! I love the "Number" art, too!

  3. And a good thing to remember is that it's easier to cut words during the revision process than it is to add words.

  4. Thanks for the helpful link, Donna!

  5. I agree with Patricia. I hate having to add words. It's almost like torture.

    Great post. Thanks!

  6. Hi Becky, Patricia, Pat and Writer Chick,
    Thanks for your comments.
    I agree with Patricia and Writer Chick about it being easier to cut than add words.
    One thing I found noteworthy in Chuck's article is that if your manuscript is way beyond the word limit it needs editing or is actually two novels.

  7. I was curious to see what YA would come in...thank goodness, it's a very flexible range. I can't see going back and adding 10,000 words, give or take a hundred.


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