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I’ve been working away at my second project since February 2010 but I am at complete lost to how many words a standard book should be.  I am only talking a regular pocket book size. 

Could somebody help me out? 

 

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Figure somewhere in the ballpark of 75,000 to 100,000 words.  I wouldn't go much smaller than that though I've gone bigger.  I don't write much science fiction though, just fantasy fiction or general fiction.

 

To help me picture the size, I use one inch margins all around and 16 Times New Roman font.  It's not exact but it's close.  75,000 - 100,000 words will give you roughly 250 - 400 pages.

Thanks :-)

 

I hoping to achieve around 160 pages for this first very real attempt.  I have got some books at this page count and so it is an acceptable number.  Anything that 250 pages I think I need to wait until I am more experienced.

 

Thanks for your support

Oh I don't know, it's not really all that hard to come up with a little more detail.  Sprinkle in a little side drama and add some humor here and there, maybe even a love affair on the side, or not.  You'll find 100 pages in no time.

My story has been pretty intense and I've realized that it's been lacking in humor.  I know that every book that every author writes should be special but I really would like this project to be a treat of a read.  The story is very unique (without sounding big headed) and I would not feel comfortable adding a love affair into the story because it's been done to death.

 

I have got a side story rolling away in my head which I guess will be the glue to stick everything together and adding another element to the story will give me the space to add humor.  - So far every page has had it's nail biting intensity and makes you look are very real moral issues in today's society.

 

Thank you so much for your support.  It does mean a lot to me :-)

Any time - glad to be of some help.  I'd be happy to help any time you need it.  Also without sounding big-headed, I think I make a fairly descent sounding-board.  ;-)
That's kinda what I do, Rebecca.  As I write, if my story makes it past 100 pages, and looks like it going to roll for a while yet, it's grown up enough to get chapters.  The only bad thing about just letting it roll is my last one ended up over 1000 pages long.  Fortunately it could be split into 3 very easily cause it fell into three parts from the start.  The one I'm working on now may be just as long; I'm only a little over half way and it's already well over 400 pages.  Unfortunately, this one isn't falling into parts so I don't know what I'll do with it when it's finished.  Who knows, maybe by then, it'll be a TV series.  One can hope, right.

I was under time pressure as I only had a few months but Reise was my first publication but the publishers only gave me 3 months to write it which is why it is so small.  I am more experience now and I've decided not to use the same publishers again.  I would like my current project to appeal to to literacy agents and I've realized that with enough studying (about the theories and facts that the project is based on) the story can go a long way.

 

Thanks

 

Rebecca Treadway said:

Hi Toby,

 

I think in the beginning you should simply write the entire story and not worry about the word or page count. Just get it done.  It might not be a novel, it might be a novella - it might be a series - point is, do the tale first.

If you wind up excising passages out for word count, you can always recycle it elsewhere. It's never a problem to add more. lol

 

 

 

Thanks.  I'm giving my current project everything that I have got and so I am hoping not to self publish- You got to follow your dreams.

 

But if I am not successful I will self publish.  However I do tend to hunt down the literacy agents and some direct publishers like pray.  (The publishers that accept unsolicited manuscripts) 

Aiming high I am looking at publishers like Tor but don't get me wrong I know that rejection is part of the game and so I am expecting the knock backs to come flooding in when the manuscript is ready for general review.



Rebecca Treadway said:

Are you counting pages in Word? It plays little tricks ;-) If you're writing with the intent to self-publish formatting alone will alter your pages every time you change the font and/or typeset. (word counts the spaces between words as part of a whole "page" - in the status bar to the bottom left) It's one of the reasons I don't bother with page counts but a word count - and that's only when my first draft is finished.

I normally never let anything "roll" - outside of a brief outline. It's not set in stone but everyone is hell bent on writing series lately lol..they tend to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

TV series sounds good ;-) I'd recommend the cable market tho'.

 

Although I am now finishing a final edit of my first science fiction novel, I have asked professionals (e.g., Editor of TOR Books) and checked the SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) website (www.sfwa.org) to find out what length I should write. I've also read some good editing books.

 

First, do not use Microsoft Word's or Open Office Writer's word-count tool. With them, if you have 3 lines with one word each, it will only count 3 words, but that is NOT how agents & publishers count. They want to know how many pages your novel will take in Trade Paperback format, which is any paperback that isn't standard sized. Your first book and possibly all your books will first be issued in Trade Paperback format (think of it as the modern & cheaper version of a hardcover). Obviously 3 words taking up 3 lines will make a book longer than 3 words in one line.

 

Second, set your margins to 8.5"x11", all four margins at 1" each. Temporarily set the font to Courier 12pt double-spaced, first line in each paragraph indented 0.5". The first page of each chapter will be formatted so that the text (not the chapter name) starts 11 line from the bottom. There should be about 22 lines per page, with jagged right margin (not justified).  

 

Go to a random page in your manuscript with a 8-20 line paragraph. Count the number of words. Divide by the number of lines in that paragraph out to two decimal places. Do this several times in your manuscript, including different size paragraphs, and average the words per line from all samples. Multiply this by the number of lines on the page (do not include a header or trailer). Now count the number of pages (to the nearest 1/4th page) in your entire document. Remember there should be half a page blank for each chapter page 1. You should now have the average number of words per page and the total number of pages and fractional pages. Multiply them and you will get the total number of words in your document. Round to the nearest 100 words, You can round down or up depending on whether you are short or long. Some say to round to the nearest 1,000 words.

 

Third, do not forget to reset the font to Times New Roman 12pt double-spaced, first line in each paragraph indented 0.5". The first page of each chapter will be formatted so that the text (not the chapter name) starts 11 line from the bottom. There should be about 22 lines per page, with jagged right margin (not justified). If you do not do this your manuscript will likely be rejected out-of-hand. When you actually submit your manuscript, format it to whatever the agent's or publisher's web page instructs you (if nothing there, check Writer's Market").

 

Fourth, how many words should you have in your document? SFWA has the only required number I've seen for any genre. You have to have at least 60,000 words to make a novel. Unfortunately there is no consensus as to how many words are desirable. 80,000 is probably safe. Over 100,000 is probably too long for a first novel.

 

Write your novel first, and after you get your count of total words, lower it by 10-20% that will/should be deleted after you have finished editing. I am struggling with a 110,000 word novel, trying to get it down to 90,000. It is quite possible if I do proper editing.

 

I would like to recommend Revising Fiction, Making Sense of the Madness, by Kirt Hickman:

http://www.amazon.com/Revising-Fiction-Making-Sense-Madness/dp/0979...

 

I bought his book just before taking his class, and it has been instrumental in making my novel much better. In fact, I recommend you but it before you even start writing, so you can avoid making mistakes in the first place. Note I do not get anything on the sale of his books. <g>

 

Finally, a comment on why your first book should be under 100,000. The longer the book, the more time it takes an agent and a publisher to read it, the more shelf space it takes at a bookstore, resulting in the less books a bookstore will order from the publisher. Publish several books which are successful (they are reissued from Trade Paperback format to Mass Market Paperback) with sales at least 5,000 and preferably 10,000 or more total books. Then you can go much longer (e.g., 150,000 words). If you sell like Stephen King, you can make your books as long as you want.

I'm afraid I have to take exception to some of what you say, Edward.  Always wherever I looked, agents and publishers asked for exact word count NOT page count.  And really, how many times have you seen 3 words in a line?  Justified or not is an agent's or editor's preference - I just learned that my editor prefers non-justified.  Yes, agents like 12 point Times New Roman but for my own desire to be able to guess how long my book might be I set my font at 16 and my margins at 1".  It's close to a standard paperback book.  From that, I aim for 400 pages.  When I send it to an agent or publisher, it's easy to change the margins and font size.

Edward D. Isenberg said:

Although I am now finishing a final edit of my first science fiction novel, I have asked professionals (e.g., Editor of TOR Books) and checked the SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) website (www.sfwa.org) to find out what length I should write. I've also read some good editing books.

 

First, do not use Microsoft Word's or Open Office Writer's word-count tool. With them, if you have 3 lines with one word each, it will only count 3 words, but that is NOT how agents & publishers count. They want to know how many pages your novel will take in Trade Paperback format, which is any paperback that isn't standard sized. Your first book and possibly all your books will first be issued in Trade Paperback format (think of it as the modern & cheaper version of a hardcover). Obviously 3 words taking up 3 lines will make a book longer than 3 words in one line.

 

Second, set your margins to 8.5"x11", all four margins at 1" each. Temporarily set the font to Courier 12pt double-spaced, first line in each paragraph indented 0.5". The first page of each chapter will be formatted so that the text (not the chapter name) starts 11 line from the bottom. There should be about 22 lines per page, with jagged right margin (not justified).  

 

Go to a random page in your manuscript with a 8-20 line paragraph. Count the number of words. Divide by the number of lines in that paragraph out to two decimal places. Do this several times in your manuscript, including different size paragraphs, and average the words per line from all samples. Multiply this by the number of lines on the page (do not include a header or trailer). Now count the number of pages (to the nearest 1/4th page) in your entire document. Remember there should be half a page blank for each chapter page 1. You should now have the average number of words per page and the total number of pages and fractional pages. Multiply them and you will get the total number of words in your document. Round to the nearest 100 words, You can round down or up depending on whether you are short or long. Some say to round to the nearest 1,000 words.

 

Third, do not forget to reset the font to Times New Roman 12pt double-spaced, first line in each paragraph indented 0.5". The first page of each chapter will be formatted so that the text (not the chapter name) starts 11 line from the bottom. There should be about 22 lines per page, with jagged right margin (not justified). If you do not do this your manuscript will likely be rejected out-of-hand. When you actually submit your manuscript, format it to whatever the agent's or publisher's web page instructs you (if nothing there, check Writer's Market").

 

Fourth, how many words should you have in your document? SFWA has the only required number I've seen for any genre. You have to have at least 60,000 words to make a novel. Unfortunately there is no consensus as to how many words are desirable. 80,000 is probably safe. Over 100,000 is probably too long for a first novel.

 

Write your novel first, and after you get your count of total words, lower it by 10-20% that will/should be deleted after you have finished editing. I am struggling with a 110,000 word novel, trying to get it down to 90,000. It is quite possible if I do proper editing.

 

I would like to recommend Revising Fiction, Making Sense of the Madness, by Kirt Hickman:

http://www.amazon.com/Revising-Fiction-Making-Sense-Madness/dp/0979...

 

I bought his book just before taking his class, and it has been instrumental in making my novel much better. In fact, I recommend you but it before you even start writing, so you can avoid making mistakes in the first place. Note I do not get anything on the sale of his books. <g>

 

Finally, a comment on why your first book should be under 100,000. The longer the book, the more time it takes an agent and a publisher to read it, the more shelf space it takes at a bookstore, resulting in the less books a bookstore will order from the publisher. Publish several books which are successful (they are reissued from Trade Paperback format to Mass Market Paperback) with sales at least 5,000 and preferably 10,000 or more total books. Then you can go much longer (e.g., 150,000 words). If you sell like Stephen King, you can make your books as long as you want.

Anna, you are right that agents and publishers want word counts, not page counts. If you reexamine what I wrote, you will see that the final figure arrived at represents words. Page counts help you get to your word total, but are not otherwise needed.

 

Re your remark about never seeing 3 words spread one word per line. Of course not. I was using an extreme example to point something out. I have read many novels where several lines of conversation have very few words. For example:

"This is the police" / The criminal ducked behind the bar. / "Come out now with your hands up.' / The criminal instead fired several shots. / The officer fell to the floor.

 

Forget the horrible prose, but you see what I'm driving at.  There were 29 words that normally would fit into two lines of text, but because they take up 5 lines, the word-per-line count dropped from 15 to 6. My example of 3 one-word lines was just to make it obvious and quicker to explain.

 

I am glad you mentioned using different fonts & sizes that you stay with until you are ready to submit the manuscript. I did not explain that well. I often send drafts to reviewers with different margins, font size, etc. My point was that to count words you have to use Courier, a non-proportional font, and that to submit the MS the safe format is Times New Roman at 12 points unless the recipient has requested another format. The Editor at TOR told Southwest Writers in no uncertain terms that screwing up the format (especially to leave less white space) is an automatic toss

 

Finally, I should have added that you put the total word count after rounding on the top left of the first page, after your name and contact info. I left a lot of other information out because the reply was already very long and I was running out of time.

 

Ed


Anna L. Walls said:

I'm afraid I have to take exception to some of what you say, Edward.  Always wherever I looked, agents and publishers asked for exact word count NOT page count.  And really, how many times have you seen 3 words in a line?  Justified or not is an agent's or editor's preference - I just learned that my editor prefers non-justified.  Yes, agents like 12 point Times New Roman but for my own desire to be able to guess how long my book might be I set my font at 16 and my margins at 1".  It's close to a standard paperback book.  From that, I aim for 400 pages.  When I send it to an agent or publisher, it's easy to change the margins and font size.

Edward D. Isenberg said:

...you will get the total number of words in your document. Round to the nearest 100 words, You can round down or up depending on whether you are short or long. Some say to round to the nearest 1,000 words.

 

Third, do not forget to reset the font to Times New Roman 12pt double-spaced, first line in each paragraph indented 0.5". The first page of each chapter will be formatted so that the text (not the chapter name) starts 11 line from the bottom. There should be about 22 lines per page, with jagged right margin (not justified). If you do not do this your manuscript will likely be rejected out-of-hand. When you actually submit your manuscript, format it to whatever the agent's or publisher's web page instructs you (if nothing there, check Writer's Market").

 

Fourth, how many words should you have in your document? SFWA has the only required number I've seen for any genre. You have to have at least 60,000 words to make a novel. Unfortunately there is no consensus as to how many words are desirable. 80,000 is probably safe. Over 100,000 is probably too long for a first novel.

 

Write your novel first, and after you get your count of total words, lower it by 10-20% that will/should be deleted after you have finished editing. I am struggling with a 110,000 word novel, trying to get it down to 90,000. It is quite possible if I do proper editing.

Thanks for explaining that.  I didn't think about the short dialogue sentences.  I was picturing really long words - I don't know why - facepalm moment I guess - forgive me.

I've never run across anyone demanding Courier, but then I haven't submitted to TOR, though I would love to - maybe someday, but I do know agents and publishers can be very picky about the format they want.

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