How many words is too many words?

“For me, there’s nothing more cringe-worthy than when a first-time author announces that their manuscript is over 200,000 words, or worse yet, 300,000 words. The worst part is that they usually say with pride, like they’re looking for praise. I’ll admit, writing that many words is quite an accomplishment and for that reason, they should be proud, but announcing a single volume manuscript that long tells me that the writer has not done their research in regards to how long their novel should be to fit established guidelines.

Now, most word count guidelines are just that; guidelines. That said though, there are practical reasons why those guidelines exist. That’s not to say that a 200,000 word manuscript can’t be published that way, but it’s less likely to be and it will run into a few problems trying to get there.”

Source: How many words is too many words?

This is a short and nifty article to help explain something I have seen dozens of writers struggle with, and in the past have struggled with myself. As I said in the comment sections of this piece, by the end of a story the story should be where it needs to be. There are some marvelous books that I’ve found myself extremely disappointed in because the author seemed to keep padding or seemed desperate to conclude their massive novels. Their editors are probably great, but after a certain point the novels simply declined between half one and two. As a reader I found myself asking “Did they have an editor who knows pacing and length?”. I think being aware of word counts is secondary, but it can be important to keep in mind when thinking about if your story is doing what it needs to do in the length it is.

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6 thoughts on “How many words is too many words?

  1. Oh yes…I definitely had this issue when I was first submitting my paranormal romance novel. 212k words. Yikes. And that was just the first half. I purposely split it in two, because it got too long, but over 200k is really hard to find representation for if you’re a newbie so I pared it below 120k.

    I think if it’s really long, you should try to split it to make a duology or even better a trilogy.

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  2. When I see an author state their word count in their actual blurb or synopsis, I automatically think, “This book probably has more redundancy than not.” As a potential reader, I’m always quality over quantity,and I’m less likely to read a book with 200,000 words than one with 50,000. But I also recognize that their is an audience who purposely seeks out these mega-length reads.

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    1. I understand what you mean. I think the key for me is whether an author is putting out a word count because they want to say “Hey just so you know” versus “HEY! It’s a REAL NOVELLY NOVEL”. Reading the former is easier to trust, but reading the ladder reeks of someone trying to reach an arbitrary word limit and that inevitably hits redundancy. I love seeing writers in-progress word counts because that means they’re going to where they want to be, but too often writers are writing for that arbitrary word count.

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