Friday, February 17, 2012

The Goldilocks problem: how long is just right?

Q: I read somewhere that your book is 113,000 words. Isn't that too long for a debut author?

Funny you should ask. I thought the same thing, like, oh crap, Jill is going to scream and throw things when she sees how freaking huge this is. But all she said was, "it is long, but I really feel like every scene is necessary." #EditorLove :)

So that's the short answer. There is no too long or too short. There is only just right, the length your book needs to be to tell its story. However, I realize this answer is totally unsatisfying, and to be truthful 30,000 words is probably too short for a YA and 250,000 words is probably too long for, uh, anything. (Good news. You didn't write a novel. You wrote THREE novels.)

I have gathered together the word counts for some of my favorite YA books, just to give you an idea of where you stand. For more great word count info, including the secret to finding out exactly how long most books are, check out this post over at my awesome agent's blog.

Contemporary:

The Unwritten Rule: 48,921
Pretty Little Liars: 58,917
Same Difference: 74,118
The Summer I Turned Pretty: 57,671
Anna and the French Kiss: 81,100
Perfect Chemistry: 92,337
Along for the Ride: 98,980
Before I Fall: 117,295


Historical:

Revolver: 32,545
The Luxe: 88,982
The Book Thief: 118,933
Leviathan: 77,962
A Great and Terrible Beauty: 95,605
Venom: 113,093


Paranormal:

Shiver: 94,502
Paranormalcy: 72,883
Hush Hush: 85,363
Nightshade: 101,718
Daughter of Smoke and Bone: 99,472
City of Ashes: 120,608
Twilight: 118,975


Dystopian/Sci Fi:

The Hunger Games: 99,750
Divergent: 105,143
Matched: 89,124
Delirium: 114,476
Uglies: 87,274
Unwind: 95,297
Ender's Game: 100,609
Ashes: 104,605
Cinder: 87,661

Obviously there are some trends within the different genres, but if your YA book is falling somewhere between 40K and 120K words, there's probably no need to panic. However, the rules of good writing trump the hard numbers every time. Infuse dead passages with sensory detail. Tell the whole story, but cut every word that doesn't need to be there.

And most importantly, keep writing!

4 comments:

  1. Ooooh, great stats! So nice to see these examples here. :-)

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  2. Great post! And thanks for the examples.

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  3. Thanks for the info. I was wondering this myself. I guess the story will truly drive the word count, but as a writer I should be aware of this:)

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  4. Thanks for reading. I saw a call for YA submissions on an editor's blog once and the fine print said "not more than 60K words." Yikes! My emails run longer than that :) It was reassuring to see that authors are successfully publishing both shorter and much longer books.

    If you're looking for info on MG and chapter book word counts, check out the link to Jenn's hilarious 'Wordcount Dracula' post!

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