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Monday, July 26, 2010

Going Over or Under Your Word Count

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Most publishers have a word count range. Some are 60K-65K, while others are more broad such as 75K-100K. How close does your word count have to be? I always shoot for the middle of the range. That way if I'm a little under, I'll still be over the minimum, and if I'm a little over, I'll still be within the range limit.

My advice is to make sure you have plenty of words--especially on the first draft. When you are writing, plan accordingly whether you write out an outline or have it all in your head like most pansters. It's better to go over than to be under. You can always cut, but if you don't have enough, it is much harder to try and create valuable scenes to slide into your manuscript that won't seem like added fluff. Editors are experts in spotting this scenario. They know every little trick we writers try to use.

When I say I'm over my word count, I mean that I'm over my projected, self-appointed word count, not above the limit for what is allowed by my publisher. 

To avoid going too far over or arriving at my ended destination at being too far under, I always stop writing the first draft around 75% of the way through the manuscript. I evaluate what I've already written, and take an objective look at what is left to write. I try to pinpoint each unwritten scene, estimate word count for each, and make a determination as to what scenes need to be eliminated, combined, or if there are loop holes that don't give closure to all the problems in the story.This is where I may add scenes or change a scene I had planned to write. 

What about you? Do you tend to over-write, under-write, do you always hit your mark? Do you ever stop like me and re-evaluate before you finish?


Word count has been a thorn in my side. I've really worried about it and haven't seen many blogs addressing the issue.

I was originally trying to overwrite, but joined a critique group before I finished my WIP. So, I started tightening the thing before actually finishing. I think it's going to be a little over 81K.

I usually hit pretty close to my projected amount, but there are many times (like with the manuscript I just finished) that I've had to stop and evaluate my progress.

Since I write single titles in a contemporary romance, I have a little more freedom. I tend to add words as I edit instead of cutting, so I don't mind ending up a little on the lower end.

I think it helps to stop and re-evaluate one's manuscript at intervals. It sort of keeps us from getting out of hand or from going off onto a writing tangent.

Thanks for stopping by.