Nailing the Ideal Word Count for Your Genre

Let’s face it, hitting the magic word count for your novel is something that can be easy to lose track of when you’re in the throes of the process. I know this, because I’m guilty myself. I churned out my first draft, shelved it, then recently tackled revisions and I didn’t think about word count for one second, until I printed off copies for my awesome writer’s group and it cost me a small fortune. Sigh. My blockbuster fantasy novel currently weighs in at nearly 120k and I need to whittle it down to about 100k I think to hit the right target for my genre.

You want to make sure your manuscript is an appropriate lenght before you shop it around to an agent. Knowing your market, and understanding appropriate word count shows them you’ve done your homework.

It’s easy to forget about word count, we get excited when we’re writing. In my case, I felt like I’d been staring at all of those ‘darlings’ of mine for so long I just couldn’t imagine cutting any of them. I know I have to, of course. I want to look like I know what I’m doing (who doesn’t?) and my goal was to create a novel with great commercial appeal, and so I need to serve up what my genre demands. Now I’m hoping my lovely writing posse will help me decide what to sacrifice.

Here’s a fun little infographic for quick reference. I made it myself, and I’d love you to share it!

word count infographic

My advice is don’t get too hung up on word count in your first draft. Keep in mind what is appropriate for your genre, and then trim your manuscript down to size during your revisions. Also, don’t forget that a great beta reader will be able to help you decide what to cut in order to come in at the length you should be aiming for.

Here are two more great blog posts about why word count is important for each genre:

http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/word-count-for-novels-and-childrens-books-the-definitive-post

http://manuscriptagency.com.au/word-count-by-genre-how-long-should-my-book-be/

Do you have any tips or tricks for trimming your word count? We’d love to hear them in the comments below!

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