One Writer’s Journey

April 16, 2015

Word Count: One Key to Professionalism

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 12:06 am
Tags: ,

word countKnowing your way around word count is one of the key ways to look like a professional in the writing world.

First things first, it is important to know the length of the typical book in your category.  Submit a 1500 word preschool picture book and the editor reading your manuscript will know she’s dealing with someone who doesn’t know picture books.  A 10,000 word middle grade novel will have the same effect as will a 30,000 word young adult fantasy. The fact of the matter is that you need to know enough about your type of book to be close if not in the ball park.

Yes, there are books that break the rules — Harry Potter was long for a middle grade — but these books are the exception.  They have to be extraordinary.

You have to pay just as much attention to word count when you are writing for magazines.  When Highlights says that they want 400 – 600 words, they don’t want 350 or 700.  When putting together a magazine, especially a print magazine, editors know that they have X amount of space available for a craft, Y for an article, and Z for a folktale.  That means that your words have to fill that space without running over.  Giving the editor what she needs is one way to look like a pro.

The key to doing this is to do it without padding your work to pass the minimum or cutting it to the bone to stay below the max.

Wordcounts aren’t arbitrary so learn to work with them to work your way onto a publisher’s list.





  1. So question… I have a story written about a Second Grade Poetry Contest. It’s 2188 words. Thought it might make a good book with pictures, but sounds like that might be too long? What category might that fit in?

    Comment by calensariel — April 16, 2015 @ 12:15 am | Reply

  2. That’s way too long for a picture book but the main character is too old too. What about a chapter book? Some of them are illustrated and the shortest are about 40 manuscript pages long. Heavily illustrated chapter books include Mercy Watson and Captain Underpants. Less illustrated include Clementine, Leroy Ninker (character), and the Princess in Black.

    Comment by SueBE — April 16, 2015 @ 3:28 am | Reply

    • I’d be surprised if this was half that. I do love the story. It’s actually a true story. Don’t know that I’d ever get brave enough to do anything with it though. I’ve discovered I’m just a coward at heart!

      Comment by calensariel — April 16, 2015 @ 3:49 am | Reply

      • You have identified yourself as a writer — that takes guts. Read some of the chapter books. See if the feel is right. Then worry about the length.

        Comment by SueBE — April 16, 2015 @ 4:24 pm

      • Okie dokie. I’ll do that. Thanks, Sue, for the clarification and the list of books.

        Comment by calensariel — April 16, 2015 @ 4:26 pm

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