Is 90K still OK?
In discussing the book I'm writing, "Goodbye Grammarian", I've referred to word counts. This book started life as my 2010 NaNoWriMo, so hitting the 50,000 word mark was part of its genesis. In revisions, though, I set a goal of 90,000 words for the finished product.
Why the insistence on a particular word count? Why not just write it and let it be the length it wants to be? Because it's a science fiction book.
In a recent #askagent chat on Twitter, I put the question to Janet Reid and Laura Bradford, well known and well respected literary agents.
Janet's answer was succinct:
Laura's answer was more expansive, but agreed with Janet's:
My book is about a superhero who does battle with the forces of evil using the power of words: freezing people in place with a full stop, slicing through steel chains with a cutting remark, blocking a blast from a plasma cannon with a flat refusal, etc. All of the superpowers are hard sci-fi, with technological underpinnings, and there is plenty of high-tech gadgetry to go with the puns, wordplay and double entendres.
I chose 90,000 words because, as Jacqui Murray notes in her blog, the preferred word count varies depending on genre. Jacqui reprinted some word count guidelines from the Southern California Writer's Conference, broken down by genre. 90,000 - 100,000 has traditionally been regarded as a good length for my kind of book.
A shorter, tighter book will be a better book. Putting a defined limit on its size will guide the edits. I also believe a shorter book will be easier to pitch to an agent, and easier to sell.
What do you think? Does this insistence on genre-defined word count hold true the way it used to?
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