Pub Rants

Wrong Question/Right Question

  |  Share This:    

STATUS: I’m digging into a contract so now you will know what I’ll be doing for the next 2 hours….

What’s playing on the iPod right now? MORE THAN WORDS by Extreme

When I was at RWA, I did a workshop with my client Ally Carter. We were the only workshop at that conference that addressed anything in the Children’s realm. Let me tell you, the session was packed (to my surprise).

Anyway, the point of our workshop was this: people who want to write young adult always ask the wrong questions and we want to point that out and explain what the right question should be.

The best part of the workshop was the PowerPoint slides. We’d put up the wrong question on screen and you could feel the in-drawn breath of the entire audience. They had been thinking exactly that wrong question!

So sure enough, Sara got an email today from an aspiring writer asking one of those exact wrong questions. The person asked what is the right word count/length for his/her middle grade or young adult novel.

Gong. Wrong question.

The right question is this: how important is pacing in my middle grade or young adult novel?

See, it’s not about word count (look at the latter Harry Potter and Twilight books for goodness sake). Those books got some meat on them there bones—and it’s not just because they were hugely successful so therefore the author could use whatever length she wanted. It’s about pacing the novel so well, readers don’t mind length.

This September, I’ve got my first middle grade novel publishing. Helen Stringer’s SPELLBINDER is a whopping 372 pages long. And folks, this isn’t in larger print. It’s a long middle grade novel. But the trick is that it can’t feel like it when reading. The pacing has to be absolutely perfect. If it is, readers and editors will not quibble about the length.
So don’t ask me how many words or pages your project needs to be because I can’t tell you. If you are on the low side (like under 50,000 words for YA or under 40,000 words for MG), you might not have developed your story enough. However, I don’t know that for sure until I read it. Maybe you have written the perfect 30,000 word MG novel. I have no idea.

But what I can reinforce is this: asking about word count or page length is definitely the wrong question.

Tags: ,

Comments are closed.