The Danger of Writing Far Outside Word Count Guidelines
- By: Jessica Faust | Date: Nov 07 2016
Books and genres have target word counts. It’s the way it’s always been and I suspect it will always be that way. Long ago word counts were decided both because of genre expectations, but also cost. Too short and the cost of the book exceeded it’s worth, too long and the cost became too high to make a profit.
Even in the days of ebooks I think readers have an expectation of how long a book should be, and the time they’re willing to commit to a book. Yes, yes, I know George RR Martin has written some long books, but what did you say your name was? I’m pretty sure you didn’t say George RR Martin.
I talked to an author recently who acknowledged that her book was way too long. I think it was running somewhere around 150,000 words for a YA. Way, way too long. She knew it, she’d been told by agents and authors that it was too long, and yet she refused to cut. She was convinced that cutting would ruin her absolutely perfect climactic moment. She was however willing able to divide the book in two, but only if a professional said she had to. No one wants that.
If the book is too long it needs to be cut. Done. Another reason word count is so great is that it gives you perimeters for editing. If almost everyone else in the writing world can fit into those guidelines, including most of the top names in your genre, can’t you? If you honestly think the book can be split in half (I wonder where that amazing climactic moment will go) split it in half. Don’t wait for an editor or agent to tell you it needs to be done. If you already thought it, it needs to be done.
Although I’m not a fan of simply splitting books in half. I don’t think it works all that well.