Thursday, November 1, 2012

Workshop Day 1

It's finally here! Today is the day I hope you get started on your journey to finding an agent who has YOUR manuscript on their wish list!

No need to delay! Let's jump right in and get started.

Basics today: Operation PRE-OP

Word count basics!

Many new authors sit down and write a story and just write until they reach the end. They don't even think about word count. I know I didn't the first time I wrote a story (waaaaaaaaay back in the 80's!)

But word count is important. Agents will look at a new author's manuscript and think about how hard it would be to sell a novel to a publisher based on word count. A novel with "not enough words" won't make the wish list. A novel with "too many words" won't make the list, either.

Publishers look at the words and know that a longer novel will cost more money to publish. If a first time author doesn't sell enough books, the expenses won't be covered and the publisher looses money.

I know, I know. There are many books on the shelves today that are as thick as the book case that holds the books. But you got to know, these books were written by well-known published authors. They can get away with it! New authors can't.

Yes, there are exceptions, but as a new writer wanting to be a published author, why try to make it into the exceptions. Be normal and stay safe!

Do you know what standard word count is? No? Well, here's a safe list you can use.


Fantasy and Sci-Fi 

  80,000 - 90,000




All genres

There really is an exception with the young adult fantasy or sci-fi genre. This can be a higher word count.


younger age range of 9-12

upper age range above 12 (tweens)


Generally speaking, these are about 32 pages in length, with one or two lines per page.

Remember, these are standard word counts, but if you stay within these ranges, the agent will have one less reason to stop reading your query before they even get started!

Okay, part two!

If you are writing your novel in 30 days, or close to it, it's time to take a look at the word count and break your novel down into daily word count goals.

For NaNo, they set the goal at 50,000 words, which breaks down to just a little over 1,500 words per day. Take a look at your genre, figure out your word count goal, and divide that by 30. This will give you a daily goal to shoot towards!

Go ahead and do that now, then come back. I'll wait...

Ready? Let's get your one sentence summary written down. What's that? Well, I want you to take one sentence and tell me about your novel. Only one sentence, no big deal. If you have an idea for your story, just write that down. I want to know what's going to happen in your story, that's all!


My character finds a letter written a long time ago, buried in the bottom of an old trunk she finds in the barn, addressed to her, with a date written 100 years ago.

Now, I want you to just start brainstorming ideas. Just write and don't censor yourself. Keep writing until you have exhausted your thoughts. NOTHING is off limits, no matter how insane, funny or cruel.Forget what you know. Forget that it may not match your previous thoughts. Just write. What to write about?

Characters to include
Props you'll want
Interesting settings
Unique names
Plot twist ideas.

Go on, just write!


 Blonde hair girl, in her late teens
Old school crush
Step mother
little sister
Knid uncle
unruly neighbors
a long lost mother

antique brush and mirror set
box of love letters
recipe book
pack of old playing cards
cool case with a gamblers set: cards, dice, chips, pistol
velvet lined ring box
vase of flowers

Okay, see what I did? I just wrote. But you need to write more than this. Write until you can't think of nothing else. Nothing is off limits. You never know. An awesome nugget may be hidden in your thoughts! Write it down, no matter how bizarre it seems to you!

Okay, last thing for now. Start thinking about scenes for you novel. We are going to start with 10 for now. I HIGHLY recommend index cards because they can be re-arranged if needed. I also like to color code for character. Each character gets a special color. That way I know which character the scene will focus on. If you don't have colored index cards, use a marker and and place a dot or line on the top of the card. This helps keep characters together, too.


My MC is in the barn, milking the cow when she finds an old trunk her uncle brought back from a trip to visit his family down south.

Little sister gets deathly sick

MC talks to uncle, demanding to know what happened to her mother.

Okay, do this for ten cards.

Now, it's time to write. If you are writing your novel in 30 days, get busy writing! Take one of the scene you just created and write about the scene. You may not use the scene in your final draft, but then again, you never know!

There's more to come this month. We've got some wonderful classes set up and I hope you enjoy your writing time in the next few months.

Please let me know if you have any questions!


  1. Hmm ...
    A 72k adult fantasy
    A 197k adult science fantasy
    A fantasy wip aiming for 70k (to be fair, with a 17-year-old MC, this one may slide under NA)

    Man ... my word counts are way off. Especially my science fantasy. That sucker's getting bigger with each revision. -_-

  2. I had a goal of 80k for my NA novel. What I did was to come up with a loose outline to determine about how many chapters to have, and then divided that among the goal. As I finished each chapter, aiming for about 90% of the goal (at that point, wrapping up usually took me just over 100%), I logged the word count for that chapter, subtracted the total written from my goal, and divided the remaining-to-be-written chapters among how many words were left. Some chapters were under the goal, and some were over. It was a loose per-chapter goal.

    My finished manuscript first draft has almost 84k words and took 31 days. I didn't aim for a novel in a month, but that's how it happened. It is currently in the hands of a couple beta readers/CPs.

  3. Off topic post!

    If you want a critique buddy hit me up at!

  4. Basic outline and plotting done. Major characters listed. Location decided. Aiming for 90k of Adult UF. I have 30 days. With it rattling around in my head at the moment, I can finish fairly quickly and start the entire revision process, which, for me, always takes longer than the writing. My poor CPs. LOL

    @L.P. Hernandez - may take you up on it later :) I love a man's POV on my work. It helps in SO many ways.

  5. More often, when I read about word counts, I read about authors lamenting too many words and having to make precious cuts. Right now my WIP is 75k and I'd really like to get it closer to 80k. My goal, after I go through the initial revision and reorganization, is to reread it for sections that are weak, lacking description or just needing more meat. Interesting dilemma from the usual I read about.

    1. Do you have contact information for the workshop attendees outside of these comments?

    2. yes! Sorry I forgot to add that to this post! I'll post it on the Inspirational class post tonight!

  6. Great advice and good luck with Nano!

  7. Thanks! Looks like I'm pretty on target aiming for 65,000 for a YA.

  8. Great tips! Just wondering since I'm working on NF what is the word count for inspirational non-fiction?

    1. Hi Debra! I'm asking the agent and will let you know as soon as she answers!

    2. Our agent let me know that the word count for a nonfiction book does not really have a limit. Her advice was to go to the book store and find a book similar to the one you are writing. See how long the average book is and use that as your guide. I know you were wanting a EXACT number, but one thing for sure, now you can just right and not worry too much about word count! I advise you to still be cautious. My search yielded word counts all over the page, from 50,000 to over 100,000.

  9. My adult historicals are deliberately written as sagas, so they're way above 100,000 words. All the historical novels I've been weaned on have tended to be at least 500 pages, so that's just the type of story structure I'm used to. It always strikes me as insubstantial when I encounter a historical that's not even 300 pages, because of the amount of world-building and details needed. I got some great advice at Pitch University about how to query a deliberately long saga, including to leave word count out. I really think the only reason my Atlantic City books tend to be so short is because they're interlocking series books, not standalones, and usually only covering a few months to maybe a year.

    1. Ultimately the choice on word count will be left up to you! You are the author, and no one can change that!

      But I did just recently read on Twitter ask an agent where many of the agents said they automatically pass on a query with not word count list.

      BUT all agents are different. So, it's up to you as the author to choose what to submit and how many words should be included in your manuscript:)

  10. Judging by my outline, I'm going to have a hard time keeping my YA Paranormal below 70k. You said the word count can go a little higher on a YA Fantasy, I wonder if that would include a Paranormal as well. Because right now, it's looking like I have about 40 chapters and if the rest of the chapters average close to the first chapter (2,244 words), I'm in trouble. That's going to put me closer to 90k. Think that's too much for a YA Paranormal?

    1. I was told fantasy can have a higher count, but I haven't heard that about paranormal. And remember, every chapter may not be the same length in words.

    2. Just popping in with my two cents! My debut paranormal romance sits at 91K. It worked for me, it was picked up and Published by Curiosity Quills, and everything worked out. Don't focus on word count now. Focus on writing the story. It can all be lengthened or shortened or left as is when the time comes. Goof luck!

  11. 100,000 words For adult Fantasy?! no way I am going to do that in 30 days. I may not work full time anymore but there is no way I can write 3,200+ words. But that is okay i feel that if I write my first draft with less words than You can alway add more, right? My one sentence summary: When Thea went to face her parent's murder she thought the story was over, instead a frightening truth was learned, and with the help of a mysterious do gooder she will navigate the path of revenge.

    1. Then go for a novel in 60 days. You will still have the entire month of January to work on your edits!

  12. It's taken me a few years to write my novel, and I've got at least 16k to trim. Looks like this will be such an informative workshop, with lots of useful ways to help a project go so much more quickly!

    1. Thanks Lora! I hope you enjoy the next few months, along with me:)

  13. These are some super good tips, Ink in the Book! :)


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