Thursday, February 16, 2012

What's the average word count for a young adult book?

I'm currently going through the editing process and I cannot help but have doubts about my word count. I admit, I tend to doubt everything about my life (including the flavor of K-cup that I stick into my Keurig every morning) and I often go through moments where I think the only answer to my problems is to make monumental changes.

Thus, my frantic attempt to delete 15,000 words from my novel last night wasn't as dramatic as you would think.

Let's back up.

I've been playing around with MobiPocket for a little while now (more on that one day) and I've been uploading my book to Kindle Previewer (more on that another day) just because there's something undeniably satisfying about staring at your book on every dimension of e-reader that Amazon has to offer. I highly recommend it; it's even better than listening to Ke$ha when you're hungover and need something to make you feel like you're not a total train wreck.

So anyway, I've been converting via MobiPocket and then transferring the book to my kindle via USB and reading it on the device so I can pinpoint any errors. By the way, editing the book in a different format than the one you used to write it is SO helpful. It's like being flashed with that device that wipes your memory in Men In Black--everything seems new all of a sudden.

Focus. So, I've been comparing my book to the others on the Kindle, and I have a near coronary when I see that my book has a TON of little dots under it...like, we're talking War and Peace dots here. If you don't have a Kindle, see below:


 
The dots under the book titles are generally indicative of the length of the book. Up top, you've got the Hunger Games which is visibly longer than Alice's Adventures in Wonderland on the bottom. Make sense? Wunderbar. So, then my book is like...Catch-22 long. I stared at it and was like, what? How is that possible? SO I got to googling.

Here's the deal, most people online are going to say that your young adult book should be around 50,000 to 80,000 words. Anything over 100,000 is apparently wayyy too long. Yeah, okay...but the issue with that is the fact that most popular young adult novels tend to hover around 100,000 +/- 5,000. Here's what I think:

50,000 is too short. To me, that's barely longer than a novella. 100,000 is the absolute upper cutoff. I would put the goal count at 80,000. New writers can't get away with anything much longer. Sure, Stephanie Meyer can make her novels as long as she wants to, but Johnny Selfpublish needs to hold back for the time being. 70,000 to 90,000. You're good to go.

Bottom line: Don't get cocky. Yet.

I'm at 90,672 and I have no plans to make my book any longer. My thesis adviser gave me some great advice the other day; he said to write more than you need and then trim down. It's infinitely harder trying to make your writing longer.

So my advice? Don't panic about your 120,000 word manuscript. Just write what you need and trim the fat. Just don't get crazy.

P.S. It turns out that my novel just looks long because it's dialogue heavy. Dots indicate length, not word count. Just another needless panic, but then again, it wouldn't be a weekday night without one.

-CZ

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