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Writing => Fiction Writing => Topic started by: Chelc on July 10, 2007, 02:41:57 PM

Title: Oh knowledgable ones...
Post by: Chelc on July 10, 2007, 02:41:57 PM
So I've been continuing my research on YA fiction and all that jazz.
My word count is just over 50,000 words, and I thought that was a decent amount, but then I found three agencies (so far) that say they rarely ever consider YA fiction less that 80,000 words. I know that every agency is different, and the majority of my research has told me that between 40,000-60,000 words is good, but is it really? Have the standards risen to 80,000? It would be pointless for me to try and add 30,000 some more words, and probably seem forced, so I'm not going there. So since you all know way more about this stuff than I do, what's the deal?
If 50,000 some words really isn't acceptable, then I'm sad now. I didn't want a novella.
Arrgh.
 >:(
Title: Re: Oh knowledgable ones...
Post by: JeffCrook on July 10, 2007, 02:58:57 PM
You are in no-man's land at 50,000 words. Too long for a novella, too short for a novel.

Actually, that's not true. I'm not very knowledgeable about Young Adult fiction. I always thought a novel needed to be at least 80,000 words, but I have a friend who has published two literary novels well under 60,000.

80,000 words will give you about 300 pages in standard paperback. That's what publishers of fantasy and science fiction aim for, unless you're a Very Famous Author, because that is the expected minimum length. Readers look for a book that feels about the right thickness, and 80-90,000 words gives that to them. Anything shorter and they might feel cheated.

Yes, it's like selling bags of peaches.

My latest novel is just shy of 75,000 words. For a time, I feared I wouldn't make it to 60,000 words, which would have been bad. But then I wrote in this 12,000 word sequence that not only got my word count up, it opened up a character I hadn't fully explored and really brought him to life. So it made the story considerably better. I think that if the novel is ever published, that part of the novel will be the part they remember most. It is certainly the part that will get the book banned all through the south. 

SOoooo, if you are worried about your word count, I would advise that you give your story more thought. I don't recommend padding, but there could be parts of it that could be explored in greater depth. But first I would do more research about expected word lengths for your chosen genre.
Title: Re: Oh knowledgable ones...
Post by: Patrick on July 10, 2007, 03:38:23 PM
Most cut offs I've read about are in the 75,000 to 80,000 range.  YA is no exception, but they might accept less for middle grade.  I'm not sure.
Title: Re: Oh knowledgable ones...
Post by: justwrite on July 10, 2007, 04:01:41 PM
Ya think? Mine is 74,000. I had another one at 65,000 and got plenty of partial requests. I agree though to check your plot line and make sure you have maximized the story line. I know I've mentioned this already somewhere else on here, but the great book The Writers Journey can help you check for weak plot sections. Looking over that book just this morning got me over a major hump with my new book. I can't believe i stumbled in the dark with my others without the help of this book.

And if you buy it don't forget to use amazon through querytracker.net!!!  :up:
Title: Re: Oh knowledgable ones...
Post by: Lynne on July 10, 2007, 06:10:34 PM
I know that YA author Gail Giles writes her books to be 200 pages or less, so that would be around that 50,000 word count.
If you're not familiar with her, here's her website that shows what her books are about. Also on the site are some good speeches about writing, from her speaking engagements at writing conferences.

http://www.gailgiles.com/

When asked what word length they look for in a book, I've heard some editors answer, "enough to tell the story."

Title: Re: Oh knowledgable ones...
Post by: audal on July 10, 2007, 07:11:51 PM
Amazon.com has a feature that may prove useful here.  Punch up a book you might find comparable to your own, then find a link for "text stats."  There you'll find a word count which you can measure your work up against, as well as where this particular book fits into the great scheme of word counts.

Ultimately, however, "enough to tell the story" is the perfect answer to the question. 

And remember... We're all about words, not math.  Which is to say - try not to obsess too much about a word count.  Good writing trumps all, the wise Miss Snark has said...
Title: Re: Oh knowledgable ones...
Post by: justwrite on July 10, 2007, 07:37:17 PM

SMART! A karma point for you, Newbie!! :clap:
Title: Re: Oh knowledgable ones...
Post by: Patrick on July 10, 2007, 07:52:30 PM
Definitely karma for you.  That is an awesome resource.  It also gives the Flesch-Kincaid Index, which, if any of you are not familiar, this is a measurement of the reading difficulty.  Not exactly sure how they measure it, something to do with the number of words per sentence and number of syllables per word.  Anyway, Word will calculate the Flesch-Kincaid of your novel, then you can compare.

In Word, it is not turned on by default, so you will have to do this:
On the Tools menu, click Options, and then click the Spelling & Grammar tab.
Select the Check grammar with spelling check box.
Select the Show readability statistics check box, and then click OK.

Then, after you do a spell check it will also tell you the readability scores.
Title: Re: Oh knowledgable ones...
Post by: justwrite on July 10, 2007, 08:25:59 PM
 :up: You can test readability in WORD? Holy cow...I was doing that through auto-crit....which I have kind of gotten addicted to. Helped me notice a lot lf weird habits I have that no one else saw. I'm going to try that.

Hey you're gaining on me coz I'm giving you a karma point for that.  :yes:
Title: Re: Oh knowledgable ones...
Post by: Patrick on July 10, 2007, 08:38:15 PM
Except I don't get manuscript requests for every karma point  :( like some other people.
Title: Re: Oh knowledgable ones...
Post by: Chelc on July 10, 2007, 09:44:51 PM
See, I knew you guys had the answer :bow:
I suppose my resolution will have to be bringing back to life 2 ex-characters who weren't very developed...but hey, I'm creative enough, I can give them potential.
Aaaanndd just this morning I was quickly reading my first 2 chapters and I brought it up 1,300 some words. ah ha ha ha ha. So, I think I just may be able to bring this book up to the 350 page range. I think. I hope :ho:
Title: Re: Oh knowledgable ones...
Post by: justwrite on July 10, 2007, 10:06:25 PM
Personally I think you are better off keeping it lean and mean. Don't bulk up just for the sake of it. Make sure it keeps the story flowing. Do the ex=characters really further the plot?

Now as for YOU, Patrick (said like Seinfeld says Newman) you have to QUERY to get partial requests. Whoops..no smiting!
You like me..you like me. I'm your Senior Moment..(member! hee)
Title: Re: Oh knowledgable ones...
Post by: JeffCrook on July 10, 2007, 10:17:43 PM
For all the wise ones like Ms. Snark who will tell you "enough words to tell the story," you should also be aware that there are some people shallow enough to reject a story based on word count. I recently got a rejection for a short story that I know they didn't have time to read - the return was too quick, and I suspect it was rejected without being read because it ran over 12,000 words. Although the magazine doesn't state a specific word count in their guidelines (most do), 12,000 words is long for most major magazines.

It is a fact that page count is one of the measures by which screenplays live and die. Granted, the screenplay community and the fiction communtity live by quite different standards, but it is a standard that a screenplay of less than 80 pages or more than 125 pages Just Isn't Done. You send such a screenplay to an agent or a contest and it will automatically be rejected, even if it could be the next Oscar winner. It simply will not be read. And they are honest enough to admit to such shallow standards.

I don't know if the fiction community has a similar yardstick. I do know that the contracts for my four previous novels (all fantasy) stipulated a word range of 85,000 to 95,000 words. Just remember that this is a business as well as an art.

Title: Re: Oh knowledgable ones...
Post by: Patrick on July 10, 2007, 10:19:37 PM
Query?  That's doing it the hard way.  I'm just gonna wait for the agents to come to me.  I may even play hard to get.
Title: Re: Oh knowledgable ones...
Post by: Patrick on July 10, 2007, 10:25:38 PM
The publisher has to be able to justify $25 for a book (hardcover), and if it is only 150 pages that won't be easy.  I think that is the driving force behind the minimum word length.  On the other hand, if the book is too long then publication will be more expensive.  Not a problem when the author is well known, but taking a risk with a new author is bad enough and they do not want to make it worse by driving up the printing costs.

The screenplay issue is probably similar.  The guideline is one minute of movie for every page of script, and too little movie is hard to sell, too much cost more to make.
Title: Re: Oh knowledgable ones...
Post by: justwrite on July 10, 2007, 10:51:26 PM
Hmmm...I've read on many a website that too long a word count for a first time author is a no-no. Whatever. Too bad Miss Snark is out of business. We can ask my two favorite rejectors who blog..Vater and Nelson.

I'm too tired to do it.It may be early out west but it's late in Mooville. I expect a well researched answer in the morning.  ;D
Wow. I actually got some writing done in between posting.
Title: Re: Oh knowledgable ones...
Post by: Lynne on July 10, 2007, 11:57:09 PM
Hmmm...I've read on many a website that too long a word count for a first time author is a no-no. Whatever. Too bad Miss Snark is out of business. We can ask my two favorite rejectors who blog..Vater and Nelson.


To get your Snarky fix, you could check out the blog of Editorial Anonymous. I'm sure many of you have found her already, but in case you're not familiar with her, EA is an editor of children's books who recently started a blogspot. Lately she's had some hilarious "Slush and Punishment" postings (great examples of what not to do as a writer, and hard to believe people send in manuscripts that are that bad). She's also offered a few "How to Speak Editor" lessons, in which she translated exerpts from rejection letters. 
www.editorialanonymous.blogspot.com
Title: Re: Oh knowledgable ones...
Post by: justwrite on July 11, 2007, 08:48:22 AM
Thanks for the blog, Lynne.
Title: Re: Oh knowledgable ones...
Post by: JeffCrook on July 11, 2007, 11:34:43 AM
I consider the screenplay min/max standards shallow because the screenplay is going to be rewritten - no matter what.  Some producer is going to want her boyfriend written into it. The director is going to ask if you can include a giant spider in the scene with the psychologist. So why not just go ahead and read it? It might be brilliant, but a tad too long - that can be fixed.

I'm bitter because I once wrote a screenplay 180 pages long, only to learn that to even enter it into consideration, I had to edit an entire third of the story out. I did it, but it wasn't easy.

Of course, now I'm turning it into a novel, with the other 60 pages put back.
Title: Re: Oh knowledgable ones...
Post by: Diowe on July 11, 2007, 11:36:10 AM
Most cut offs I've read about are in the 75,000 to 80,000 range.  YA is no exception, but they might accept less for middle grade.  I'm not sure.

Yep, much less for middle grade - 30,000 - 50,000 actually. Chelc, most of the stuff I've seen on YA is just about any length goes. Standard though is 40,000 to 60,000 and not much ever over 80K, especially for a first-time author (those agents really surprise me - are they well-known, respected? Did you check them out on AAR and Preditors/Editors?) MG and YA are different than adult fiction. Lean and mean, as someone else pointed out, does count. For a lot. Someone said people don't buy thin books because they don't feel like they're getting enough for their money. Well, kids don't care about that for obvious reasons. They see a thick book and they think, wow, do I really want to devote that much time to one story? (Unless of course JK Rowling wrote it!)

Hope this helps!

Diowe
Title: Re: Oh knowledgable ones...
Post by: Lotheus on July 11, 2007, 11:47:22 AM
It's frustrating because my current WIP is at 115,000, completely on its own momentum.  This is a first draft, so there will be WC casualties, but come on!  The story has a life, and writers should net be forced to cram that living thing into a tiny, pre-ordained WC box!  It needs to be able to breathe to be vibrant and realistic.  Patrick's gonna love this "Oh, I'm an artist and will not compromise my work" post.   :bash:
Title: Re: Oh knowledgable ones...
Post by: Diowe on July 11, 2007, 11:51:56 AM
It's a good thing you're not writing for the kiddies, Lotheus!  ;D

Diowe
Title: Re: Oh knowledgable ones...
Post by: Lotheus on July 11, 2007, 11:55:02 AM
Unfortunately I am...   :'(
Title: Re: Oh knowledgable ones...
Post by: justwrite on July 11, 2007, 12:11:55 PM
In those words of Stephen King: "All first drafts are sh**ty"

And "You are going to have to kill some darlings."

Words I live by and quote as often as I quote Spiderman (primarily because those are the only quotes i can remember.)  :yes:
Title: Re: Oh knowledgable ones...
Post by: JeffCrook on July 11, 2007, 02:04:46 PM
Unfortunately I am...   :'(

Have you considered splitting the story into two books? Is there a natural break point?

I have a long unfinished fantasy novel, currently set aside, that is already 131,000 words. I expect to write another 80-90K before it is finished. But there is a logical break point - where the young mage runs away from home - about half-way through. I will break the story there and call it a duology (or something).
Title: Re: Oh knowledgable ones...
Post by: Cole Gibsen on July 11, 2007, 04:27:41 PM
This is by far the most entertaining thread on this forum! :popcorn:
Title: Re: Oh knowledgable ones...
Post by: Chelc on July 11, 2007, 05:18:10 PM
Jeez, there's too many replies on this that I can't remember who said what!
so, whoever advised me to not bulk it up just for the sake of a higher word count, it's all good. I'm writing a four part series, so there are plenty of ideas for me to work with. I took a back story plot line thing that wasn't supposed to come into play until book 2, but I realized it actually was better to put it in the first manuscript, instead of leaving the first book in such ambiguity as it was.
And yeah, one of my ex-character, after thinking through what could be done with him, really added some interest...not to mention a nice long three chapter sequence   :dance: :dance:

Okay, next thing. Patrick you brought up the subject of that readability thing on word...I tried it, but what on earth do those three things mean?
This is what I got:
Passive Sentences: 3%
Flesch Reading Ease: 83.6
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: 8.9

Good or bad? ???

Last thing, I find it funny that I started this long forum :wink:
Okay, now I'm babbling :blah: and having too much fun with smileys
Title: Re: Oh knowledgable ones...
Post by: JeffCrook on July 11, 2007, 10:15:53 PM
Congratulations. If you can go back and look at your darling criticially and say, hey, this part would be better here and this character could work there, you've got a big leg up. Self-editing is one of the most difficult things to do.

Your readability index seems pretty good to me. Right on target for your market, I should think. It is YA, right? And relatively low passive tense. Still, 3% of 50,000 words is 1,500 words, or 150 or more passive tense sentences.

At the same time, be aware that Word is not all knowing. It assumes you are writing a scholarly essay, rather than fiction.
Title: Re: Oh knowledgable ones...
Post by: justwrite on July 11, 2007, 10:59:05 PM
I tried to find that function in Word. Is it only in the newest version? I'm on a Mac..do you think might not work on a Mac?
Title: Re: Oh knowledgable ones...
Post by: Lynne on July 11, 2007, 11:19:38 PM
I tried to find that function in Word. Is it only in the newest version? I'm on a Mac..do you think might not work on a Mac?
I don't know much about Mac, but I have Word 2003 on my PC and it works. You should be able to click on "Spelling and Grammar", then in that window click "options", and check the box that says "show readability statistics."  Then after you do a spell check a window should pop up that gives you the stats.
Title: Re: Oh knowledgable ones...
Post by: Lotheus on July 11, 2007, 11:27:48 PM
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flesch-Kincaid

This will shed a little light on the subject.  Love the Wiki!!
Title: Re: Oh knowledgable ones...
Post by: Chelc on July 11, 2007, 11:37:54 PM
hmm that was interesting.
yes, wikipedia does tend to have the answer to everything.
too bad we're not allowed to use it as a resource for research papers at my school >:(