Thursday, June 26, 2014

What's Hard About That? Part 1

Good news everyone!

Writing a book is really not that hard.  It’s a simple, simple, simple matter of hitting the necessary number of words.  Novels can vary in length, but on average you’re looking at 70,000 to 120,000 words with some minor variation for genre.  Tears of Heaven, for example, comes in at just under 80,000 words

Why words?  Why not pages?

Writers use word count because they’re a better measure of the actual length of a manuscript.  Variations with margins, font style, line spacing, font size, etc., make comparison between any two almost impossible.  For example, I have a friend who writes his first drafts in longhand.  I, mostly due to my carpal tunnel, have to work mostly on an ergonomic keyboard.  For every page of typed writing I do, he might hand write three or four.  If you asked which of us was writing more, by page count, he would be.  But by word count, we’re exactly the same.

Publishers also prefer word count rather than page count for similar reasons.  In addition to seeing if your work fits within their requirements, they're also calculating costs based on the length of the work, and the potential for a brick-and-mortar store to buy copies of the book and put them on the shelf.

Sometimes bigger IS better.
Of course, there are extremes on both ends of the spectrum.  Stephen King can release a series of novellas averaging about 25,000 words, as he did with The Green Mile, and readers will snap them up like Scooby Snacks.  At the other end, George R.R. Martin’s A Dance of Dragons is over 260,000 words.  That’s nothing, of course, as any fantasy genre fanatic will tell you.  J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings was intended to be one book, and clocks in at about 525,000 words when you include the appendices, which Tolkien intended to be read.  The Bible at 725,000 words (depending on your version) doesn't even crack the top ten list of longest works ever.

You can calculate (roughly) your own favorite author’s work by using the old rule of thumb of 250 words per page.  This is only a rough calculation though, because it’s based on all things, margins, line spacing, font style, font size, etc. being the same.  Still, it’s a decent measure for rough comparison.

The point is, writing a first draft is incredibly simple—hit the word count requirement and you’re done.

Now, actually editing and getting a book ready for publishing?  Well, that will be tomorrow’s article.

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