Tuesday, December 06, 2005

LC: How Many Words?



Hmmm---how many?

How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? That little tongue twister was a favorite in my junior high group. We’d toss around things like: The flea, the fly and the flue. Said the flea what shall we do? Let’s fly, said the flea. Let’s flee, said the fly. So they flew through a flaw in the flue.

When I wrote my first book back in 1982 I had a lot of tongue twisters racing through my mind. Could I write a book, me a snook, write a book---well that’s not a tongue twister but here’s a question I think most beginning writers ask: How many words are in a book?

A book can have any amount of words: I once read a popular highly-touted diet book (paid good money for this thing) that had one word in it. Think. But the books most of us write have a definite range and it goes roughly like this:

Novella
20-25,000 words
80-100 pages
10-12 pages per chapter

Short Contemporary
50,000-60,000 words
200-240 pages
18-20 pages per chapter

Long Contemporary
70,000-80,000 words
280-320 pages
18-20 pages per chapter

Short Historical /Mainstream
90-100,000 words
360-400 pages
18-20 pages per chapter

Long Historical/ Mainstream
108,000-120,000
432-480 pages
18-20 pages per chapter


So aspiring writers, ready set go! Pick a length, dig out your imagination, and get to work! As for me, I’ll be aimlessly wandering around today muttering: How many words should an author word if an author could word words….

Lori Copeland (http://www.loricopeland.com/) lives and writes in Missouri.

6 Comments:

At 9:27 AM, Blogger Robin Cynclair said...

I always shoot for a certain word count, then as the story unfolds, the targeted publisher pops in my mind and I go by their word count guidelines. Thanks for spelling this all out so nicely! On another note, Lori, I just found out my neighbor's mother is a friend of yours. Mrs. Adams? Small world, isn't it? Blessings to you!

 
At 10:44 AM, Blogger Terry Whalin said...

Lori, I am asked this question constantly and you spelled it out with excellence. Thank you.

Terry The Writing Life

 
At 12:32 PM, Anonymous Steve Lenaghan said...

I am first time writer, a love story it seems. For a 64 year old man its not something I planned. The guide on word count (found on second google try) answered my questions on one page. Now if my heroine will cooperate and give me another 20 K words.

 
At 8:00 AM, Blogger BookWorm said...

This is very helpful. Thanks. Now I'm wondering if there's a preference for number of words in a title. Are short titles better: does it matter?

 
At 7:56 AM, Blogger Adam said...

Thanks for this post. I'm working on writing my first novel. Having never written anything quite this long before it is useful to have a vague guide on word-length so I can track how I am doing while I concentrate on the story.

 
At 8:34 PM, Blogger jeffHopeck.com said...

Great info. I am in the process of writing my first book (www.jeffhopeck.com), and your blog really helped me out.

Thanks again for your help.
Jeff Hopeck

 

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