75,000 Words

‘The Hunted Angel’ now runs to 75,000 words. Exactly. Well, according to Word’s word counter, that is. Years of experience have taught me that these things are to be taken with a pinch of salt at the best of times. It will be somewhere near the correct total, though. For the record, the 75,000th word was ‘but’. It came up while I was doing a bit of editing and expanding a passage that I had already written. It won’t keep that distinction, of course because everything will change when the first draft is completed, and I start to edit it down.

Officially, a novel is categorised as a piece of creative writing at least 70,000 words in length, with the average being 100,000. If a novel ends up longer than 120,000 words, it is called an ‘epic’. 100,000 words usually turns out to be just over 300 pages in a printed book, although that can vary according to the typesetting. New editions tend to have larger fonts and leading (gaps between the lines), whereas old works – especially those where the copyright has already expired – often cram as many words as possible on a page to keep the costs down.

In the days of Charles Dickens, it was not unusual for novels to be published as serials in magazines. Then, writers were paid by the word, so they wrote a lot of them to maximise their earnings. That is why many of Dickens’ books are so long. Today, that no longer applies, but there are still far too many books that are much wordier than they need to be. Fantasy books, in particular, seem to be prone to this. It is as if the writers think that because all three parts of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ were 400+ pages, their own work must echo that. It is a direct result of the invention of the word processor. It is the most powerful writing tool ever devised, by far, but it makes waffling on endlessly about something much too easy to do. 90,000 words of dynamic prose will wipe the floor with 150,000 words of waffle every time. I try to live by that mantra.


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