re: The Right Words Matter More Than the Right Word Count

in Formatting/Punctuation/Grammar/Teen/Middle Grade Fiction by

Dear Editor…

I am writing a YA novel, I think. (I guess it might be considered middle grade.) How many words are these novels usually? I’m past half way and mine is 14,000 words. Am I on the right track?

Sincerely,

Tina

Dear Tina…

You’re fine. MG fiction ranges between 25,000 and 45,000 words. But forget that for now. You need to focus on definitively identifying your audience. You must know your audience in order to write a story that successfully connects with them. Is your topic right for 9- to 12-year-olds? How about your narrative sensibility? That is, does the story express concerns that reflect a middle grader’s way of viewing the world? Kids that age are typically focused inward, struggling to find out who they are. They shouldn’t sound too self-aware by analyzing themselves or others. Let them judge and act quickly — and then face the fallout.

Happy writing!

The Editor

4 Comments

  1. Great advice; I wish I’d had it before I started my MG. It came in at 85K, and I sweated buckets cutting it down to 65k. (Now I write YA because it offers more leeway in length and style.)

  2. On the other hand, if it is indeed a YA novel, 25k seems a bit on the short side. Besides the fact that she needs to figure out what she’s writing, the larger issue at hand is whether length is important.

    Regardless of the age/genre you’re writing, you need to make sure each and every word in your MS is absolutely needed. Find the best way to tell your story, and try not to worry about the length of the end result.

    However, after you’ve made sure your MS is the exact length required to tell your story, recognize that if you are at the extreme of what is “normal” (i.e. very short, or very long), it’ll become another obstacle to overcome when trying to convince an agent to take on your book.

  3. Laura, Susan, MG Writer: Thanks for sharing your thoughts. We should also consider that this project sounds like a first draft, which means just getting the story down on paper is more important than the length right now. Both cutting and expanding will happen during revision.

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