What’s in a Word Count?

The other day I came across a manuscript that was 190,000 words. My mind boggled. That was so long! Most modern manuscripts I see are at max 125,000. But that got me pondering word counts. Is 190K that big?
In it, I learned that Gone with the Wind is over 400K. Wow. So maybe 190K isn’t that big. After all, there are several well-known books on that list that are the same length.
Of course, a few things are different since Gone with the Wind was published in 1936. Television and internet create a world where we either need to keep your attention or lose it to something more immediately entertaining. Not that people can’t/won’t sit down and read 400K, but it’s harder to entice them in and get them to read through it.
I understand completely, as finding time to keep up with all the entertainment and media stuff is hard enough. Who has the time to read something that long. Is it fair to a book that is 200K and a masterpiece that it may never be purchased by a publisher because it’s just not marketable (assuming it can’t be broken into two smaller books that may be more enticing)? Maybe not, but that’s the world we live in.
(Also, as a side note, many of the longer books we’re familiar with were published piecemeal in newspapers (etc) on a weekly/monthly basis where the author was paid per word. So yeah the authors milked that for all it was worth. Plus if you’re only reading a chapter at a time, the length doesn’t seem nearly as overwhelming.)
This post helpfully breaks what lengths should be by genre: https://worddreams.wordpress.com/2010/12/08/word-count-by-genre/
In general it seems fairly accurate, though I think with more progression in the digital age, some of the lower word counts can be moved down. For instance, 75K seems to be a golden number in the books I see. Not too short, not too long. Enough space to flesh out the character and story, but not enough to lose the reader to a billion other things.
Personally, I…have trouble writing that long. Generally my works max out at 50K, if they even get that far. I’m working to develop my writing and flesh out the story/character/senses more, which will hopefully lengthen my word counts (and make the writing more enjoyable in general). For instance, my current WIP has a character who I envisioned in his thirties, but my writer group envisioned much older, because I gave no clues to his age. I obviously need to describe my character more! That will help my writing, yes, but also help me hit the golden word count. (Maybe :P)
My point (yes, I have a point!) is that when we’re writing, we need to keep in mind our genre, audience, etc. Yes, we should write for us, but if we want to be published, keeping in mind these guidelines (not rules or laws, just guidelines) are important. Cheating on some points within a genre may make books harder to sell (but not impossible) to a publisher. Cheating on all of them means a book better blow them out of the water for them to take the (likely) risks.

And this isn’t meant to be preaching or teaching so much as just a reminder to myself. Or maybe just an awareness to keep in the back of my mind. You know, along with all the other crazy stuff. 

The Summer Goes So Fast

The past month has been hectic, as I flew from helping move the Riptide warehouse, dog-sat for my brother’s family, went on vacation, and now I’m cat-sitting. And in two weeks I’ll likely be dog/horse/house sitting.

Cat sitting is easy. Especially with this sweet girl. Of course I also have to tend to the swimming pool and the gardens, but I’m used to it. On the other hand, it still throws my routine completely out of whack. I don’t have an ideal place to work (my mom has an office, but I feel like everyone tries to make their offices as uncomfortable as possible or something. Or maybe it’s just people who don’t actually USE their office.)

Despite being insanely busy, I’ve been hitting my 5K monthly word counts. Last month was a bit of a cheat because it wasn’t actually original words, per se. Part of the word count was writing up a summary, which I’m totally counting just because those things are time consuming. Or at least they are for me. And this one was wordy!

Hopefully for August I’ll be finishing my YA trans* piece (WCR). Right now it’s a novella, but I’m hoping that a re-read will enlighten spots to develop things more. Or I’ll risk taking it to my writers’ group. Undecided at the moment.

I’m also working on a story idea I’ve had written down for ages. It’s a play off a Grimms-like fairy tale, except the majority of the story takes place AFTER. My original plan was for it to be a romance, and it still would be, but I’m trying to brainstorm more plotty things rather than always having the feelings be the conflict.

Of course, as soon as I sit down to do that, I think of nothing. But who doesn’t want to see a river guardian and a sacrifice child live happily ever after (Um, with time skips, of course O.O).

All right, time to put the nose to the grindstone. Or fingers to the keyboard, whichever will be more productive….