Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Word Count: The New Bane of My Writerly Existence!

A few weeks ago the bane of my writerly existence was synopses, shortly followed by query letters. Now? Well, now it is just word count. You would think that words of any sort--counted or not--would be a writer's best friend. Right? Wrong. At least, not when you are writing something that falls into the Young Adult category and have a word count that is over 70k.

Like, way over 70k. Twice that to be precise.

Yup, the current word count for my YA epic fantasy novel is 149k. What does this mean? Any agent I query to is going to see that and say "No thanks" because I am a debut author. Why else will they say no? Because book one is just that--the first book in a series. There's no real way it can serve as a standalone. Well, I guess it could but it would probably really piss people off at the end. I do that a lot with my endings.

Anyhoo! I'm hanging out (a lot!) over at WriteOnCon and the word count issue has come up quite a few times in my query critiques (speaking of which, I will post the new working query at the end). Now before you go thinking I am one of those newbie writers that scoffs at any industry/professional advice given--don't. I am incredibly grateful for all the feedback and for those warning me about high word count. They aren't wrong. Does it suck? Yes! Yes, it does! But that doesn't mean they are wrong or that I am ungrateful for the advice. I am really grateful that I found someone willing to take a peak at the manuscript and offer cut suggestions, because I have absolutely no idea how to trim it. Truthfully, it was 120k and needed fluffing and filling out, which is what got it to 149k. Maybe I could split it into two books but I don't know...Hopefully my new friend will offer some insight as to how to make this something the agents won't go "Yikes!" at when they see the word count in my query.

New friends is also another little subject I'd like to touch on. When I first decided to venture into the online writing communities, I found it to be more than a little daunting. It was flat-out intimidating. There's so much to learn and you just feel like an idiot when you don't know it (example: Having to look up active voice vs passive voice because someone told you that you were using the latter too much and you said "Huh?"). I like to write. That's why I have two books done. I've never sought out to be published, only to finish telling my story in the hopes other people might read it and like it. Hell, I'd pass out free copies on a street corner if I could. I've given out enough of them already. But my point is that it was very scary and I am very happy to say that as I settle in to my online skin, I am finding it to be very rewarding. These people are in the same boat I am. Some people know more of the ins and outs of the publishing industry, others don't. But we all want the same thing: For our story to be heard. Having that thread that links us all together is really nice and I am forming some really cool connections from my experiences with WriteOnCon and other communities like MyWANA Tribe and AbsoluteWrite. If you haven't joined and started talking, I urge you to do so. It will be so rewarding in the long run, even if you do have to get through those awkward first-day-at-a-new-school kind of moments.

And now for the revised query!

Dear (Agent),

Ariana believes herself to be the typical teenage girl, apart from her lavender eyes and the birthmark shaped like a pentacle on her wrist. She has no idea that she is the prophesized fifth of the most powerful—and magical—of all the worlds. Zelene, her twin sister, has led a life that belongs in the plot of the most tragic of Lifetime movies but her plans to start fresh take a gruesome turn when her current foster home is turned into a macabre nightmare.

As the enemies of their home world catch up to them, their luck seems to switch. Ariana is captured by the enemies that hope to take her power for themselves. Zelene, along with their three sisters in power, is taken back to the world of their birth where a loving family welcomes her with open arms. Now the four remaining girls must find a way to come into their own powers to stop the war that is raging on around them and rescue their missing sister. Their return is met with mixed emotions. When they find the good guys are proving to be not so good and the bad guys seem to have wrong methods but the right ideas, it leaves them wondering who to trust.

HEIRS OF WAR, PROPHECY ORDAINED is the first book of the HEIRS OF WAR series at 149,000 words. This series is targeted for lovers of both young adult and epic fantasy, though it has elements of suspense, action, and romance as well.

Thank you for your time and consideration with this project.


  1. Thanks you so much for your comments on my query! I thought I would stop by :)
    I love fantasy and am intrigued by your first sentence, but I got hung up on sentence number two. It sounds like the sisters aren't together.
    Some helpful hints-I was told to keep things at around 250 words because a good pared down description should be only 250 words. You have a lot of room (currently 194 words, not including your wrap up in paragraph number three) to build your world, and make every word count.
    See you around!

    1. Thanks and you have a very good point--I do have more room to make things clearer! The sisters aren't together and it might help to really clarify that when leading in with Zelene. Like maybe: "She is also unaware of the family she was separated from at birth, including the twin sister living only miles away." Something like that?

  2. The current word count for my YA epic fantasy novel is 118K and I got the same feedback from WriteOnCon peeps... too long! I have been told that 100K is the ideal word count for a that kind of story. Your query sounds good, although I know some agents are not crazy about queries beginning with "MC thinks she's perfectly a normal/typical teenager but she's not"... But I really like the premise of your story! Let me know if you're looking for a CP, I'd be interested if you are.

    EM Castellan

    1. I'd love to exchange some chapters and see how we fit as CP! I am all about having CPs. My thoughts are this: even if we aren't a good critiquing fit for one another, we will at least have one more person in the writing community to chat with!

  3. Greetings!

    I'm hopping over from GUTGAA and thought I would start visiting some blogs early. Nice to meet you...lovely blog!

    Donna L Martin

    1. Nice to meet you! I'm really looking forward to GUTGAA! This is my first time!

  4. Hi! I'm also from GUTGAA, and I believe I responded to your query on the Write On Con boards. I had some consulting sessions with Diane Holmes of the now-inactive Pitch University last year, for my superlong Russian historical novel (finally edited down to 335,000 words), and she had a lot of great advice and suggestions for me on querying a deliberately very long novel. She said to emphasize very high-stakes, dramatic, important events (like fleeing from the Bolsheviks during the Civil War and immigrant life in 1920s Manhattan, not so much the tumultuous on-again, off-again relationship between the two leads). Otherwise, it'll look like it's just some superlong book of another nature. She also advised me to leave word count out, so any rejections are based on opinion of the writing, NOT prejudice against sagas.