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Word count for books

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by JayFarrar, Mar 25, 2008.

  1. JayFarrar

    JayFarrar Well-Known Member

    My understanding is that a book should be at least 50,000 words and it would be nice if it was closer to 70,000 words.
    But how long should individual chapters be and using standards, how many words would be on one printed page?
    If my word count is wrong, pass it on.

    Much thanks in advance
  2. JayFarrar

    JayFarrar Well-Known Member

    I've already been helped out by PM.
    Much thanks

    For the curious, around 5,500 words a chapter and with that you want 12 chapters to get 66,000 words for the book.
  3. mdpoppy

    mdpoppy Member

    I guess the Bible went a little long then, huh?
  4. PHINJ

    PHINJ Active Member

    The Bible needs an editor.

    There'd only be Six Commandments left by time I got done with it.
  5. Jones

    Jones Active Member

    I'm not sure who told you that, Jay, but that would be a pretty short book. I'm not even sure that would get you 200 pages.

    I think 100,000 words is more standard. My last one was something like that, and that came out to be 288 pages.

    Don't get me wrong -- there are lots of 200-page books. But I wouldn't say that's anything like a standard length.
  6. jgmacg

    jgmacg Guest

    My first was twelve 10,000-word chapters. Plus prologue, photos, notes and acknowledgments, just about 400 pages.
  7. 21

    21 Well-Known Member

    I don't believe there's a 'should' for book length...depends on the size and topic and what the publisher is looking for. They do all kinds of tricks with margins and fonts and other spacing stuff.

    But under 70k words is pretty lean.
  8. Moderator1

    Moderator1 Moderator Staff Member

    Mine was 60,000 words - very short. I think Jones' 100,000 is more the norm.
  9. In Exile

    In Exile Member

    I've written books between 20,000 words and 250,000 words. Different books, different audiences, topics and approaches require different lengths - which isn't even length really. It is time. Write as long as you need the reader's time to tell the story. In consultation with your editor and according to your contract, you write the book the length it needs to be so when you're done you feel done, with no unanswered questions. Just don't drop a surprise at the end, and dump a book way long or way short on an editor expecting the opposite.

    Much the same with chapters - 2,000 words, 15,000 words - write then as long as they need to be to feel complete and unified. NEVER write a chapter to length just because you're stuck on a number.

    The only real regret I have about any book I've written is when I've compromised according to length. As a late great writer we all knew of here once told me "F-'em. It's you book. Your name is on the cover."
  10. awriter

    awriter Active Member

    Well, that clinches it. Book writing is not in my future.
  11. JayFarrar

    JayFarrar Well-Known Member

    Thanks to Jones and the rest.
    It now means that I am just 2 percent done. Totally awesome.

    Like I told someone else, every reporter has a book inside them, and that's probably where it should stay. But with one yearning to be free and having decided to do it, you have a lot of little details that you don't know.
    Book length. Chapter length. Structure. Flow.
    If I'm wrong, please tell me, but what I did was write a rough outline of what I wanted to do. And I broke it down by chapter.
    Then I started writing, but I didn't know when to quit and go to the second chapter.
    If anyone wants to share anything else, feel free.
    This has all been invaluable.
    Again, thanks to all.
  12. In Exile

    In Exile Member

    I think of chapter breaks like big breaths, where you feel the need to pause, inhale, ponder and move on - and you have to be a reader here, as well as a writer. Be sensitive to when natural transitions occur - an event comes to a close, a conclusion is reached, a character experiences some kind of defining moment, there is a moment of quiet before action, or action before quiet, some contract in the narrative. Much of it is just learning to listen to your own work.

    Helps to, when ending a chapter, find a way to lift it off the page a bit, and cause the reader to reflect a little, just like the end of a long story or magazine piece, where the story turns back on itself a bit. Again, if you are just breaking off for the sake of breaking off, don't. And see if a lead for the following chapter comes easily. If it does, you're breaking it at the right place. But if you neither have an end, or a lead, then you simply might not be at the end of the chapter yet, or have already rushed past. Trust me, it gets easier the more you do it.

    It sounds simplistic, but it really helps sometime to scattershot through your library just reading leads and ends to chapters, or magazine pieces - can help to brainstorm your own. You'll also realize that some writers you may like a great deal use the same strategies over and over. Nothing wrong with that, if it works, but I must admit that ever since I did that to a writer who I had always admired and realized that nearly every story ended with a similar sensory impression, my admiration dropped just a little. So don't abandon your change up.

    And use you outline as that - an outline. Maybe I'm the outlier, but I've never worried for a second about abandoning the outline as I write, as long as I make sure I cover the same territory. For the writer the writing process is also a learning process - no matter how much I think I know beforehand, I don't make the connections until the act of writing takes place, and that can cause me to recast the rest of the book entirely. One of the most lasting things I ever wrote came about when I was in the process of telling a small story that I expected to write over quickly, but found first one question that I didn't have an answer to, then another, then another, and all of a sudden not only did I have an entire new chapter, but the info in that chapter informed the remainder of the book and provided a entire logic that wasn't there when I started writing, and that I didn't know was there in my research.

    That's why you do this.
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