Another Word on Word Count

Courtesy of Jay Lake‘s Link Salad, I give you a very good journal entry by Caren Johnson on word count.

I have a few things to say about this, but I’ll keep it concise, because, you know, word count.

1. Do what they tell you for the first book. You can be all special later, when and if they let you. Your goal is to break in.

2. Caren says, “I think writers with those long sprawling manuscripts should rethink their word count. Look at the writers you admire and those who you’d like to compare your work to (another reason why I ask who your contemporaries are; those who don’t know better start reading to find out). Are their books longer or shorter than yours? Are you making yours longer because its essential to tell your story or because you’re trying to match their writing style? Think about all this before you submit that 100,000 plus word manuscript to more agents. It could be the difference between getting an offer or representation vs hearing that your story took too long to grab them or sagged during the middle and that’s why they’re passing on your book.”

Food for thought. I am always on the other end of the spectrum. My initial manuscripts are short, and I usually plump them up with more details that are essential to the story. I envy those of you with words to spare.


Author: Catherine Schaff-Stump

Catherine Schaff-Stump writes fiction for children and young adults. Her most recent book, The Vessel of Ra, is the first book in the Klaereon Scroll series. She is currently working on its sequel, as well as penning the middle grade adventures of Abigail Rath, monster hunter.

2 thoughts on “Another Word on Word Count”

  1. Yea and verily tis mightly necessary to not snitch thy neighbor’s writing style.

    To many fellow newbie writers go the “I gotta get me a trilogy going” as their first offering. Then they get bound up in the language and wander around the middle were are the tunnels look alike and they’re bound to be eaten by a Grue.

    And I’m always grateful to find other writers who plump up their second drafts. That was an amazing revelation when somebody told me I should do that instead of trying to cut 25%. It was like having the Golden Ticket handed to me.

  2. I always think of the first several drafts as a sketch, because I’m so focused on dialogue and plot and since I can see the stuff in my head, I always take the visual for granted, until I can go back and pay attention to the scenery.

    I agree that it’s nice to find another plumper. 🙂


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