Falling Short of the Count
I’ve been giving word count a lot of thought lately. Mainly because as I poured through BD&L prior to sending it into the void that is Harper Voyager, I began to question the wisdom of marketing it in its current state. It’s been burnished beyond belief, that’s not the issue. What’s causing me to rethink is that it comes in at barely 75k. In the world of publishing, there are pretty standard guidelines on word count. Adult Fantasy, especially that of Epic Proportions, falls into the 80-120k range — not the barely 75k range. A quick search of the www found this at Cassandra Marshall’s site:
Sci-fi and Fantasy – 80,000-120,000 words, most averaging 100k-115k
And this at Word Dreams:
◦science fiction & fantasy = Here’s where most writers seem to have problems. Most editors I’ve spoken to recently at major SF/F houses want books that fall into the higher end of the adult fiction you see above; a few of them told me that 100k words is the ideal manuscript size for good space opera or fantasy. For a truly spectacular epic fantasy, some editors will consider manuscripts over 120k but it would have to be something extraordinary. To make this all a little easier, I broke it down even further below:
◦hard sf = 90k to 110k
◦space opera = 90k to 120k
◦epic/high/traditional/historical fantasy = 90k to 120k
◦contemporary fantasy = 90k to 100k
◦romantic SF = 85k to 100k
◦urban fantasy = 90k to 100k
◦new weird = 85k to 110k
◦slipstream = 80k to 100k
◦comic fantasy = 80k to 100k
◦everything else = 90k to 100k
As if I needed more, there was also this at Inside a Writer’s Mind:
I asked my literary agent, Marisa Corvisiero, this very question. She said ideal word counts shown below are for first-time authors in the print-book market. They aren’t set in stone, but straying far from these targets, diminishes your chances of finding an agent and publisher.
ALL GENRES from thriller to romance (except Fantasy/Sci-Fi): 85K
FANTASY/SCI-FI: 115K (120K if truly outstanding)
There are many more sites, all of which confirm the standard word counts and all of which leave me pondering if being below the standard word count is just as bad an idea as being over? It’s caused me to drag my feet in finishing my synopsis and continuing to query agents. I’ve begun to feel a need to add at least an additional 5k, leaning toward 10k. Shouldn’t be too hard, right? That’s just a couple extra chapters.
But where do I add these words? They can’t be fluff. They can’t be added just for the sake of bumping my count into the normal range. They need to mean something; need to move the story, develop character, provide tension, build my world — all that good stuff I’ve so carefully honed the rest of BD&L to do. And my lovely sub-conscious has already begun to go over the options. A new beginning, showing more of Ciara’s background? Develop Bolin’s character a bit more? Extend this or that scene? Add another minor character? Stir a sub-plot?
That sound you hear is either me growling, or my brain exploding.