On Writing: A Chart of Popular YA Novels’ Word Counts

“Words are only painted fire; a look is the fire itself.”

–  Mark Twain

 

I’m sure there are other charts or lists like these elsewhere on the internet, but I wanted to contribute one as well.

Word count is something you get to disregard if you’re just writing for fun, but any manuscripts which hope to be turned into books should have at least some grasp of their length, at least according to the agents and editors of today’s publishing industry.

I’m not going to talk about official guidelines for word count because that information is already available from far more qualified informants. Plus, the guidelines vary. Some editors say middle grade novels should be between 50,000 and 70,000 words, whereas others might say 60,000-80,000.

My novel is YA Fantasy, most closely resembling Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson stories in terms of age range and the feel of the story. To roughly gauge my target word count, I looked into the word count of The Lightning Thief. That one is 87,223 words long. The final draft of my manuscript totaled to around the same, give or take a thousand words.

That’s kind of a bad example, honestly, because I would’ve been fine if it was off by even five or ten thousand words. Also something to note: I didn’t tailor my manuscript to that length, or any length. I just wrote, made sure the story felt full and complete, then went back and looked at word count. I cut probably two thousand words, but I wouldn’t have hesitated to leave them in if I’d thought they should be there. Like I said, the guidelines are flexible, so an estimate will often do. If I’d written a YA Fantasy that was 130,000 words long—roughly 520 pages—then that would bother some publishers. Not all, but some. Same as if I wrote one that came in at 110 pages. As it is, mine comes in at a healthy average of 324 pages.

Anyway! Enough about me. Should anyone reading this plan to take my advice and look at word counts of popular books, I’ve compiled a chart of some of those YA books here.

The standard formula is page count= word count/250, since most novels generally have 250 words per page. So you can guess any book’s word count by multiplying its page count by 250. That being said, I made this chart with the help of this handy website, which will tell you the exact counts of just about any novel.

Word Counts

On Writing: From Outline to Manuscript

“The first million words are practice.”

 –  Stephen King

 

In continuation from a previous post on writing a book: so, you’ve either typed out some sort of outline or decided to keep it all in your head. I personally like to write down the outline. And once I’m ready to turn it into a book—like, an actual readable book with chapters and descriptions and everything—here’s what I do.

First of all, I—to quote Miss Swift—“never, ever, ever” write my book out of chronological order. I always start with chapter one, work my way through, and finish the manuscript with the last sentence of the last chapter.

I do this for a few reasons.

Primarily, pacing. Yes, the flow of the story is something you more worry about when going back and revising it, but still. I need to ride along with the characters and be there to pave the path of the plot as it unfolds. That’s just my style; I know plenty of authors who do the exact opposite. It’s about whatever works to get the story laid down as neatly as possible.

Another reason I go in order is because I more or less “re-invent” the story as I write it out from outline to concrete existence. My outline will describe what happens overall, but when I get to a certain chapter, I might think of something else to add or another twist to throw in, based on what I’ve written so far. To me, typing out an outline is the equivalent of writing a story, and actually turning that outline into a book is a way of re-writing it and expanding on its ideas.

The next thing I do when writing the first draft of a manuscript: I think about what the first sentence should be. Not too much, since I know I’ll probably change it, but I do think a bit before I type. I want it to be something to draw people in, but also not too flashy.

In addition: I don’t worry about words. I don’t worry about how I describe things (though of course I do my best to get it right the first go around), and at the same time, I don’t worry about how many words total the manuscript will turn out to be.

I know it’s easy to fret over the length of your story, page-wise and word-wise. I do it myself all the time, even though I know it’s only the first draft and the word count means almost nothing right now. The fact of the matter is that my main goal is to get the plot down, and to bring the characters to life. Once that task—writing the first draft, in other words—is finished, I can move on to worry about the mechanics of it.

The first book I wrote was thirty-six pages long (though it was single-spaced at the time, so that brings the manuscript length up to seventy-two). Through the course of my tweaking, that went up to three hundred and fifty pages, then was chopped back down to just over three hundred. Of course, I’ve since thrown out that entire manuscript and am re-writing it from scratch, so there’s the writing world for you.

So yeah, that’s about it for now.

Occasionally throughout this series of posts I’ll re-iterate my disclaimer, and so I will now: these are my thoughts only. And while I’ve been writing for a while, I’m not published, and thus my advice is subjectively useful at best. So I appreciate it if you’ve even read this whole article.

 

And as per usual with my writing posts, I’ll include a random fact, so you can say you learned something:

The Japanese name for the (thankfully) cancelled show Jersey Shore translates as “Macaroni Rascals.”

Happy Election Day.