I have finished the third draft of Dandelion Time with almost all of the book marked as Final Draft, but I am short of the word count I would like the book to be. As it stands, it is only 64,858 words and I’d like it to be at least 80,000. Why does it need to reach a particular word count? I hear you ask. Usually my reply would be, it doesn’t. I regularly espouse the view that a story is as long as it takes to tell it, and I have told my story in just under 65,000 words. I could accept it as it is, after all I think it is a good story, but I know there are some scenes that I could do better and I know I will only kick myself if I don’t improve those areas now rather than later. Even if that means I don’t meet my self imposed publishing deadline of May 1st.
Several years ago, I came across Tim Grahl and Shawn Coyne’s Story Grid website and being an inveterate planner, the system of indepth planning and analysis of my work in progress appealed to me. However, the site is enormous and overwhelming. I recently discovered the blog of one of their Certified Story Grid Editors, Savannah Gilbo, which is more compact and less intimidating and I’ve been reading through her posts and using them to story grid Dandelion Time and discover where I can improve the narrative.
One of her posts called Novel Length: How Long Should Your Book Be gives a run down of average word counts by genre. Although she starts the post by saying a novel is defined as anything over 40,000 words none of the genres on the list come in as quite as low as that. Romance novels span between 50,000 and 90,000 words, but are more usually 70,000 to 90,000 words.
At 65,000 Dandelion Time isn’t far off the mark, so I don’t have too far to go to reach a more acceptable length, but as a paranormal romance, I might be better off aiming for the mid point of the average at around the 80,000 mark. The most compelling reason for doing so is reader expectation. Publish a book significantly lower in word count than your reader expects and they may not consider your book worth their time, if it’s far higher than they expect they might feel your book will require a higher investment in time than they’re prepared to make.
In the end, I’m still of the opinion that a story is as long as it takes to tell it, so breaking away from the norm shouldn’t stop you from publishing. It’s more important to make sure every word in your story counts and has a purpose.