Why word count actually matters

There is nothing that says your book has to be x amount of words. There are good books that are short. And bad books that are long. But the real reason why word count is important is because of something else: pacing. A lot of people would say that pacing is how quickly or how fast the story goes and then would argue that has to do with writing.

Word count plays into this too though. Let me explain. Earlier last week, I read a book called News of Our Loved Ones by Abigail Dewitt. It follows three generations of women through World War Two. It’s Historical Fiction Literature.

The writing is very beautiful, and usually, when you read literary works, that is what you are focusing on more than anything. It’s not like commercial fiction where you are focusing on the drama or the characters or whatever.

That said, while the writing is beautiful one thing stuck with me: it’s too short.

I flipped through it after I finished it, trying to figure out why I felt this way. The author would briefly mention details of the character’s lives without actually, you know, going into details. There were at least fifty other stories that could have been written about in there if they had chosen to explore them a bit more. There was a scene in a nightclub with a woman who had lost her child which could have been a whole novel itself.

And I found myself annoyed that I didn’t get to know more. So, this is where word count comes into play. If you are reading something and you find yourself thinking get to the point or I don’t know the point the author was trying to make that probably means the author either spent too much time on a subject or not enough.

Think of it this way: when you are submitting your work for publishing, the opening line can make or break you. A good opening line—-the opening scene really—will catch the agent or editor’s attention. Do you want to waste words on something that doesn’t matter? Or risk not putting enough attention to detail that they know what’s going on?

Again: there are no hard and fast rules about how long a novel needs to be. But you’ve got to think of it in terms of pacing. If your story is feeling too short, why? What’s missing? Go back and reread and see if there is anything else you can add. If your story is feeling too long or meandering, see if there is anything that needs to be cut.

The right word count can make or break a story. Too short and your readers won’t know what’s going on. Too long and your readers will lose interest. Ultimately, write the story you want to tell. But don’t forget your readers. You don’t want them to walk away feeling short-changed or bored and that’s why having the right word count is important. Make sure you’ve got the right pace so that your readers don’t finish your book feeling like they’ve missed something.

1,000 words a day and how to get there to create your first serial novel

In 2018, I discovered Dreame, a fiction writing platform where you get paid to post your writing serially. Its like youtube for writers. I’d written novels before, even attempted the traditional published route. But the problem with traditional publishing is that you put all of your hard work into a novel. You write it. You love it. Then, because an agent passes, you fall out of love with the idea or you think you need to fix it a million times and you are stuck on that one project. I feel like waiting to be published is one of those reasons why some people write one book instead of continuing on with that next project they love. Because they don’t get to share the one project they think is “their book”.

Back in the day, publishing your books on the internet was considered a sure way for it not to be published. Now, people like Anna Todd, Sarah J. Maas, and E.L. James have built whole careers based on web novels. It’s not so far fetched that a writer can create their base online. But how do you start writing serial fiction to make it work for you?

  1. Find a platform to post

There are many writing platforms now that there weren’t back in the day. Wattpad is the popular one. But there is also Swoon Reads, Dreame (of course), Radish (another serial fiction app), Tapas, and many more.

2. Create your characters. Keep a notebook or a document you can refer to with basic background info, like age, hair color, eye color, that sort of thing so you can refer back to it. I always forget to do this until I’m about half way in, and then have to go searching back in the first chapter for character descriptions. This will help you remain consistent.

3. You don’t have to do this, but I frequently use Pinterest to create a kind of aesthetic story board for my novel, just so I can get the kind of feel I want for the book or characters.

4. Plot your novel

Now, a lot of people confuse plotting with world building. Plotting and world building are not the same thing. World building is creating the rules and structure that make your world function i.e. the shire in The Lord of the Rings or the Wizard World in Harry Potter. Plotting means creating the story line. What needs to happen where and when. It can be as simple as creating bullet points for each scene.

Because I write serial fiction, I like to think of each scene as a chapter. 1,000 words no more no less. If it doesn’t move the scene forward in some way, I probably don’t need that bit of dialogue or moment in the first place. I try to think of my books like movies. Can this scene be deleted and without the book missing context? Then it goes to the deleted scenes.

Consider that the National Novel Writing Month contest says that a novel is 50,000 words in length. In Meg Cabot’s frequently asked questions page on her website, she gives a great rough estimate of how much many words your book should be based on who you are writing for.

“Publishers go by words, not pages. Most adult books are about 90,000 words, and no longer than 100,000 words (unless you’re JK Rowling). Teen books are about 55,000 words.

How many words are there to a page? It depends on the font you are using, of course, but in general, 250-300 words per page. Therefore, a 55,000 word book should be about 200 manuscript pages. A 100,000 word book would be about 400. Editors like 12 point font.”

If you are writing fantasy, the bulkier the better. Short fantasy books always leave something to be desired, and you don’t want to write a 75 k fantasy book and have people confused about why faeries are killed by Iron or something if that is a huge fixture in the story.

Also, short mysteries and thrillers are pretty rare too. It’s not that it can’t be done, it’s just for it to be done well, you’re most likely going to need more than 50 k.

People that read online like short, concise chapters that are easy for them to read and feel satisfied during breaks. 1,000 words each chapter gives them just enough to leave them wanting more.

5. Start writing. Most of the time with serial fiction, you are writing as you post. But if you’re doing serial fiction, you are probably like me and can’t wait to get your books out into the world as soon as possible. I recommend writing about 30 k so you’ve got some posts built up for days where you don’t feel like writing, or emergencies come up, then you can have posts pre-written as a back up.

6. This isn’t a must, but try to include fun extras for readers. Like character playlists, deleted scenes, or even something as simple as your plotting sheet can be interesting for readers to see. You can also use them to create social media content for your blog or website.

7. Keep it up. If you write 1,000 words every single day for a month, and the end of the the month you’ve got 30,000 words. If you do this for 50 days, you’ve got 50,000 words. If you do this for 100 days, then you’ve got 100,000 words. As a bonus, you’ll start getting readers, and build a community around your writing. In today’s influencer driven world, having a following of devoted readers can only HELP with getting published, not hinder it. Again, look at wattpad phenoms like Anna Todd and Beth Reekles.

And if you want to check out my own writing to get a better idea of how I write my own serial fiction, check it out here: Dreame