Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Manuscript Word Count: It's not rocket science

As the Scribes finish up a few projects, we've been batting around the issue of the current trend of how the publishing industry counts words in a manuscript. Is it 250 words/page times number of standardized pages, or is it computer counted?

Agent, Kevan Lyon of the Dijkstra Agency uses the word count in Microsoft Word. She has not had editors express an opinion one way or another. So that's she scoop right from the . . . well, that's one agent's opinion--grin.

This is a really tough business to break into, but I suspect that sometimes we make it harder on ourselves than it needs to be. Sure there needs to be guidelines, but there seem to be a lot of people who are NOT agents or editors--swearing that the powers that be will throw out your work if you fail to use the exact 2 acceptable fonts or if you fail to calculate your word count correctly. I try not to feed into that "rule mongering" and just write the best damn book possible.

I'll bet you it's the VERY rare agent that would turn away a stellar story because the author use arial font and underestimated the word count by 2,000 words. Is my impatience and rebel nature showing? Gulp. Have you had an actual experience to the contray?

6 comments:

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Not heard any stories to the contrary, but writers do at least have to understand the concept. I encounter writers all the time at my seminars that just can't seem to wrap their brains around the idea that it's word count, not page count.
Like you siad - it's not rocket science!

L. Diane Wolfe
www.circleoffriendsbooks.blogspot.com
www.spunkonastick.net
www.thecircleoffriends.net

Theresa said...

Diane,
I agree writers need to understand the concept--but many obsess on it as if that's part of the magic bullet that will get them published.

You run into people who insist on page count, not word count? Really? How frustrating.

Thanks for stopping by,
T

Donnell said...

T. I think we've been warned so many times to dot every I and cross every T when submitting, we've become paranoid. Yes, it's important to follow the rules and study the publisher guidelines, but in the end it's all about the story. Can you imagine all the agents and editors right now kicking themselves for telling JK Rowling... get thee to a typewriter ;) I wonder if she worried about page count vs. word count ;)

Edie said...

Word count is so much easier. I like it. I do think if you have a 150,000-word book, you might think of trimming. Or if you have a 42,000-word book (for adults, not children), you might think of adding.

This business is hard enough without making it tougher for yourself.

Misty Evans said...

Three cheers for common sense!

Writers who obsess about word count/page count are insecure about their stories. If there's a guideline for a particular line, follow it. If there isn't, make sure that every word, every page is essential to your story and you won't go wrong.

Peg said...

I had to pop in (belatedly) to say I love your Westie! What's his/her name? I'm owned by one named Reg. They are the best dogs!