80,000 words or 100,000 words? That is the question.

Today was a solid writing day–a 1,500 words kind of solid writing day. I finished writing chapter four and knocked 1,000 words off the top of that bad-boy chapter five. Not bad, am I right?

The only question bouncing around in my brain right now is whether or not I should be shooting for 100,000 words or 80,000. The reason I’m not sure is that I already knocked out a first draft which counts to me as the crappy draft that I would be shaving in the end. That being said, I should be able to aim for 80,000 on this draft and then see what I have from there.

I guess we’ll see. More details to come!

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7 thoughts on “80,000 words or 100,000 words? That is the question.

  1. Sounds like you’re having a productive time! Excuse my ignorance as I’ve never really tried writing a work of fiction to the scale you’re proposing, but would it not be best just to let the story play out and when it’s finished, it’s finished, regardless of word count? I’m not criticising or being nasty, I’m just genuinely interested in what you think about the subject.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Robby. I didn’t think you were being nasty at all.

      First of all, it bears mentioning that I want to sell my book so word count matters A LOT. The average Young Adult (YA) novel–the genre I’m writing for–is around 70,000 to 80,000 words. If I go and drop my 200,000 word YA masterpiece on an agent’s desk they’re probably going to tell me to kick rocks. Why? Because the damn thing isn’t going to sell, and publishing is a business.

      As for the let-the-story-play-out thing, there are a couple camps that claim to have the “right” way for writing a novel. Some writers go into the deal without a clue as to how the story is going to pan out. Perfect example: Stephen King. Guys like him swear by this method and I’d say it’s working pretty well for him. On the other hand, you’ve got writers like Ayn Rand who plot every single detail of their books and then follow that thing like a map through enemy territory. They want complete control over each move their characters make in order to convey a certain message to readers–which in Rand’s case was her whole Objectivism agenda.

      If you’ve ever written a work of fiction–even a short story–then you probably know that editing can hog up a bigger chunk of time than writing. Looking at the two approaches listed above you can see how Stephen King’s method–while it allows the character to “do what they want”–also results in a whole bunch of BS that doesn’t do anything to move the story along, and thus result in an unmarketable book. Because of this, a lot of writers will aim above the marketable word count because they know they’ll eventually edit down to where they need to be.

      So for my loosely plotted story, choosing between 80,000 or 100,000 words makes a pretty big difference. As I’ve already written a 120,000 rough draft, I feel like shooting closer to 80,000 on the second go-round isn’t a bad plan because I know where I screwed up the first time.

      Hopefully that makes sense. Thanks for stopping by, duder.

      • Wow haha. Thanks for the in-depth explanation and for clearing things up. Now that you mention Stephen King employed this ‘let the characters play out’ approach it reminded me of his Dark Tower series which I thought dragged on far too long and was filled with a lot of bloat. If I’m not mistaken I think Haruki Murakami uses this method too, and though he’s generally more concise, there are still aspects of the work which could be trimmed.

        I completely understand why the word count is such a big issue now, and best of luck trying to work out which total to aim for!

  2. Aim for the best possible words and not the most possible words. Three well crafted and memorable sentences that fit indespenseably into the whole structure are worth more than 80,000 words of pure floss. It is not much how you add to the story but how much you can take away and make it deeper and more meaningful. The reader can’t become a willing participant if there is nothing left to the imagination. Often what is unsaid is more important than what is said.

    If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water.
    Ernest Hemingway

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