Happy New Year!
Project Mayhem sends you and yours very warm wishes for a happy and prosperous 2012. May you have many wonderful writing successes.
For this first post of the brand new year, I’d thought I’d blog about a topic that seems to keep coming up lately in my own writing circles: word count. Just recently, I had a conversation with a local children’s writer who was fretting because her middle-grade manuscript was nearly 80,000 words, a length she feared would turn off prospective agents and editors.
We’ve all heard a lot about what the word count should be for a middle-grade manuscript. The numbers vary, but a couple of years ago, it seemed like 20,000 to 40,000 got tossed around a lot as a standard range.
Whoops—guess I’m not very good at following standards. Both of my published middle-grade novels came in well over the high end of that range, IVY’S EVER AFTER clocking in at almost double with 75,000, and sequel IVY AND THE MEANSTALK a leaner but still lengthy 56,000. Guess I don’t follow “the rules” very well.
I was really, really worried that length was going to be an issue for the original IVY. I figured the very first thing my editor would request was that I cut a chapter or two—or ten. Imagine my surprise—and delight—to discover that my editor had a really easygoing and fabulous attitude about the length of a book. “If it holds kids’ interest, they’ll read it, no matter how long it is,” she said. After all my fretting and worrying, tossing and turning at night, telling myself I must cut, cut, cut and trim, trim, trim, in the end, the length of the book wasn’t even an issue for my editor at all.
And really, do old word count “rules” still apply anymore? With the longest of the Harry Potter books, HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, tipping the scale at 870 printed pages, and lengthy middle-grade reads like INKHEART and ERAGON and their various sequels topping bestsellers’ lists, hasn’t it been proven that young readers aren’t intimidated by a hefty length?
Currently, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) lists the market trend for middle-grade manuscripts as 100 – 250 typewritten pages. With one-inch margins and 12-point Times New Roman font (also recommended by current SCBWI guidelines), 200 typewritten pages comes in at about 56,000 words on my word processor, so it sounds like that old 40,000 cap, at least, might be a thing of the past.
What do you think? Is there still an “acceptable” word count for middle grade? What kind of word counts do your manuscripts sport?