Keeping Your Word Count Genre Appropriate

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Often writers ask the question, how many words should I write for my novel? While this question can be as futile as asking, how long is a piece of string, it is also a good idea to understand the ballpark number of words you are aiming for to give you an idea of what is appropriate for your genre.

If you want to sell your book, you need to decide what genre you are writing in. While there are exceptions. Most writers decide upon their genre and so some research around it before beginning to write their book. Doing so can be helpful for a number of reasons.

It will give them an idea of the kinds of stories that do well in the genre.

It will give them insight into what kinds of readers are interested in the genre.

It will give them an understanding of the length of the novels that generally appear in the genre.

Of course, you need to be able to write your story as you see fit. But you must also accept that if you are hoping to have your book published by a traditional publisher, keeping it at an appropriate length will give you the best chance for success. 

Remember, competition is fierce and agents and publishers see so many manuscripts that they have to make quick decisions. If you write a book of 200,000 words aimed at an audience who usually reads stories of 100,000 words, you are going to have a tougher time convincing an agent or a publisher to take a chance on you. 

It’s also important to consider your reader, even if you aren’t interested in getting a traditional publishing deal. Your readers will dos likely continue to buy books in the genres that they love the most. If they’ve already read lots within the genre, they will have certain expectations that they will want to be met. If the book doesn’t fit their expectations, they are more likely to give it a miss.

It’s easy to access information on the typical word count you should be aiming for your particular genre. It’s also a good idea to look at the bestselling books in your genre and find out how long they are, as this may shift the goalposts a bit.

Increasing and shortening your word count

If you have already written your novel and your word count is way off the mark here are some things to think about.

Could you add some new characters? Particularly ones that create obstacles for your protagonist?

Could you add a subplot which compliments your main story?

Look out for instances where you have told rather than shown the readers, and these could be opportunities to be more descriptive.

If your novel is way too long you can edit it by cutting out any overwritten language or any words that aren’t necessary for a sentence. You can also look at cutting whole paragraphs, scenes, and even chapters that don’t actually add anything or advance the plot. You could even kill off characters that aren’t necessary for the story too!

Remember, each story is different. However, you shouldn’t pad your word count if it means your book won’t make sense Similarly you shouldn’t cut out loads of your book if it’s actually valuable and necessary to your plot. Word counts are just a guide. They are worth paying attention to, but writing a good story should always be your number one priority. 

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