Does size matter? #IWSG

Of the many things I’ve fretted over as I near the point of publishing is the size of the book. That all important word count.

Fantasy has a rather high word count according to my Google searches with a large range. I have met other local fantasy and science fiction authors who have 120K+ projects that they are working on that don’t seem to have a problem reaching those numbers. But then I look at my little 66K word count and wonder if I shouldn’t be looking into somehow making that larger.

I’ve told the story I wanted to tell. Any additions I have planned for once I hear back from the last couple of beta readers won’t bring that count much higher. It concerns me that people will somehow see this little word count and think it isn’t worth their time.

Even once I made the choice to go the self publishing route because of small size (what traditional publishing house is going to want to try and push something that small for fantasy?), it hadn’t settled that concern. The feedback so far from beta readers hasn’t pointed at the size being an issue. I should be comfortable having something that works well, right?

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28 responses to “Does size matter? #IWSG

  1. I don’t write fantasy, so I’m not an expert on the genre, but I worry less about word count and more about whether or not the story is fully fleshed out. My first drafts tend to be bare bones, and I have to add/develop scenes as I revise.

    I think our goal is to write the best story we can write, regardless of word count. I remember reading Stephen King’s Carrie all those years ago…a much skinnier book than anything else he’s written, as I recall, but still a classic story. And, the Harry Potter books got longer as Rowling got further into the series. I have to wonder about those really big word counts anyway…sometimes words need to be cut!

    • I nervously worried that I was the only one that seemed to have to add later also. So many people I talk to, especially in my critique groups, are always talking about having to cut out huge chunks.

      Thank you though!

    • Thank you! Irony was I posted this yesterday and then suddenly my feed was full of suggested word count lengths for [insert name of size/genre here] this morning.

  2. I think you’re fine with that count if that’s what the story came out to–don’t pad it if that’s the length of the story and don’t worry about the size of it. My novella was only about 30K–and granted, I write historical, which can also have a really long word count–but I’ve been told by people who read it that they were find with the word count–they were glad they could read it quickly.

  3. If you’re writing YA, that wordcount works. It *may* be concerning for the adult market, but only if your feedback is telling you that. Maybe more beta readers? If you’ve had 2 or 3 that might not be enough. If you’ve already used 5 or more, or even 10 betas, and they say the story feels complete, I say that’s your answer.

    There are people who don’t like long books. Maybe your niche in fantasy is to target reluctant readers. It’s a good hook to have a “rich but quick read.”

    • Thanks! It’s not YA and I know that traditional publishers would frown upon something that short. I have it out to 5 betas at the moment. Still waiting to hear back from a couple. Didn’t want to overload myself with feedback all at once.

  4. Hi,
    I think one of the most important questions for any writer is, have I written my story well. Is it complete? If your story is well written and complete with 66,000 words then that is what counts. Your readers will appreciate your story as it is written. I wouldn’t try to increase the word count because of someone else’s standards.
    Shalom,
    Pat Garcia

  5. You should always write the story at the length which naturally unfolds for it, whether it be 45,000 words, 75,000 words, 150,000 words, or over 400,000 words. Writers of yore didn’t freak out if their books ended up at only 50,000 words, or went way over 100,000 words, nor did they pre-plan their books around some arbitrary word count dictated by gatekeepers. It’s important to make a book as good as possible, but I’m very much against making a book shorter or longer merely for its own sake. Some books definitely are overwritten and need winnowing down, just as other books feel fragmented and unfinished because they’re so short. But that’s a case-by-case basis sort of thing, not an across the board thing.

    Surprisingly for some people, my saga-length books have needed less extreme revisions (apart from my first Russian historical) than my shorter books. My books in most need of editing and restructuring have so far all been under 100K, whereas I deliberately planned and plotted my saga-length books, and thus wrote them so much more carefully.

    • Thank you! This was a writing into the dark type of project since I only had half a thought going into NaNoWriMo. It turned into something that I was proud of and kept polishing until I was more or less comfortable to start sharing to get feedback.

  6. I don’t think it’s too short. I read recently that readers are wanting shorter tales and that epic fantasy was slowly fading due to the length. So a reader who doesn’t want to spend three months reading Jordan or Martin would enjoy your book.
    I write science fiction and all four of my books have fallen around 75,000-80,000 words, which is on the short side of the scale.
    Welcome to the IWSG!

  7. A story has to be as long as necessary. Forcing it to meet some arbitrary word count won’t help your story

    Best wishes,
    Diane IWSG #95

  8. I agree with Stephanie. I think it’s perfect for YA, but I know the adult market is a bit different. I think the higher word counts for fantasy have to do with world-building expectations–so that might be an area to look at.
    I have a tendency to write sparsely and was advised by an agent to add more to one of my middle grades. I ended up adding a subplot to get it to the desired length. If you’re self-publishing, the word counts might not matter so much though.

    • Thank you. What I have isn’t YA. Or at least I don’t think a YA audience would enjoy it as much since my main character, while young for her race, is still much older.

  9. As a fan of the Thieves World series–and concise story telling–I respect an author who knows when to put a cork in the WIP.

  10. I don’t look at size much when I read. I read novellas, sprawling epics, and anthologies filled with short stories. I look for characters who capture me and events that enthrall. To judge based on size is one of those things that make me angry, and usually makes me step up onto my soap box. There’s no way to say, oh, because of the number of words you used, it must be bad. That ticks me off. Judge it based on the writing, on the skill woven into the words that are used. Criminy!

    You’re a good writer. Many people prefer tight writing. If you’re really concerned, then seek out more beta readers and get more opinions. If they don’t say they wanted more put in, then I think you’ve got enough to please the majority. But it’s not something one can base on word count alone.

    • Thank you! I need to at least give you a hug and a cookie the next time I see you. Oddly, I’m the same about not caring about the length, but the story itself. Just looking into the business side of all of this, I’m starting to panic.

  11. Yes be happy with what works for you and do what feels right.
    I just fought like crazy with my publisher because of the actual physical size of my next book. I was expecting 6×9 and they presented a 5×7. I was so upset and so relieved when they agreed to change it. They told me if I wanted the next one that size I would have to increase the word count.

  12. From a publishing industry perspective, I’ve heard that there is a minimum length for fantasy novels UNLESS it’s a YA fantasy. So long as you have a young protagonist or at least a young character in a leading role–someone teenage readers can easily identify with–you should be okay. Just don’t fill the book with extra stuff just to reach some specific word count. Readers of all ages hate that.

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