re: Bumping Up My Word Count

in Teen/Middle Grade Fiction by

Dear Editor…

My MG is around 20,000 words. Too long to be a chapter book and too short to be in the ideal range for MG… so do I cut and change the vocabulary to make it a chapter book or do I try and expand on the characters, add scenes, to make it more like a solid MG?

Thank you!
Franziska

Dear Franziska…

It’s unlikely that the plot, themes, and characters you designed to sustain a novel-length story are a good fit for a chapter book. Chapter books are written for a very specific audience (6- to 10-year-olds transitioning from beginning readers, with a sophistication level far below typical MG fare) and are rarely one-off books like your single title would be. The chapter book market is dominated by series. Look to flesh out your scenes, and consider adding depth to your setting. But don’t pad for the sake of padding, as you may torpedo your pacing and tension. The Newbery Medal-winning The Midwife’s Apprentice is just 22,000 words. Sometimes a short novel is a short novel because it’s supposed to be.

Happy writing!
The Editor

3 Comments

  1. I’m in the same situation. My MG novel is about 21,000 words. I often wonder about the same thing regarding chapter books. That answers some of the questions I had. I like your last sentence: “Sometimes a short novel is a short novel because it’s supposed to be.” Good point.

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