Monday, 6 November 2017

Calling All Stattos...

(Before I even begin, I'm having a mental debate about the correct pluralisation of Statto. I've gone with Stattos because it's a name, but it still feels that Stattoes might not be wrong either. Happily, there's no call for a possessive or an omissive apostrophe, so that's good news.)

Anyhoo. Let's move on to the business in hand. It's one for the number nerds today. 

Please insert the missing
 S at your convenience.
I am not a fan of numbers. I realise that's a fairly broad statement to make but it's true. I don't allow anything I can't do on a calculator to trouble me. I am comfortable in knowing that someone mathsier than me will split the bill fairly - both metaphorically and literally. Yesterday with some siblings, we were chatting about how old I will be when my nephew turns eighteen. I know I am thirty-eight years older than him, and therefore I knew I needed do 38 + 18. But I just didn't. None of us did immediately. At one point, my brother said that we should message our littlest (brainest) brother to tell us the answer. We didn't (he was at work). But we wanted to.*

When it came to writing Carry the Beautiful I had no idea how long it should or would be until I got to the end. Only when the last full stop was added, did I pay attention to the final word count. The complete first draft was 75,000 words. (Rounded to the nearest thousand.) This seemed like the biggest number of words ever. Yet when Claire the Editor fed back to me, it appeared it was on the short side. She told me that for a novel in my genre, I needed to be aiming for 80,000-100,000 words. Her feedback also included suggested additional chapters to improve the story, (and some cuts too) so after I'd made the changes, I ended up with 82,000 words. 

Word counts have been in my head recently. At the moment, I am nearing the end of the next book's first draft. It currently stands at just over 70,000. On the one hand, this sounds brilliant. I've still got around 10,000 words left to go before I reach the end of the story, so I am right on track to have a decent sized novel of 80,000ish words. Except. Except... this one is not from the contemporary fiction genre. This one is from the pre-teen, children's section genre. I worry that 80,000 words is going to leave even the most confident of readers running for the hills.
It's how long?

My new book is much in the vein of an Enid Blyton book. Not the same style of writing, plot or use of casual racism. More in the fact it's for pre-teens that like chapters. It's got meat. You can't read it all in one night. However, I don't want it to be so long it's off-putting. Editing is all part of the process, so I am sure there will be lots of waffle that gets backspaced immediately. There will also be strands of plot that just don't work and need to be cut. Even so, I feel like I need a guide to know exactly what I am aiming for. So I have turned to Google and done my research. Stand by for some Enid Blyton word counts.

It's got meaty
My favourite
 Famous Five book.
If we take Enid as a guide, I'll need to shift around 15,000 words to get me comfortably in the 60,000s. But Enid is not the final word in children's fiction. Oh no. I also checked out the word count of some of Judy Blume's books too. I don't have any of these on my bookshelf, sadly. These were the books that I got from the library on a regular basis. They were American, much more honest and true to life. (You never heard any of the Famous Five wondering when they were going to get their period.) Blume's books are much more in line with the style of my new story. So, let's look at the stats...

Forever - 74,400

Hmmm. That isn't so helpful. The first two books books are aimed at exactly the age group I am writing for, but they're about half as long as my first draft will be. Forever is more like it, but as every pre-teen girl who read it knew, it wasn't really aimed at pre-teens at all. (*whispers* Because of all the S.E.X.) I bet if I flicked though it now, all 74,400 words would be overwhelmingly innocent. (Even Ralph!)

But I digress. All the examples so far, are of old books. Books I used to read back in the day. Let's look at more recent children's literature to get a modern day idea.

J.K. Rowling 

Mr. Stink - 69,440
David Walliams

Zoe Sugg

Well then. That muddies the waters even more. Thanks to Zoella, I now feel that my slightly more than 70,000 word count is nowhere near enough and I'll have to tack on a second ending that is even bigger than that first. Blimey. Her book is a mofo.

So what have I learnt from all that? Not much to be honest. Zoella aside, I think my finished rough draft will need to be shorter by the final edit. I reckon I should aim at the fifty to sixty thousand mark, as that seems to be fairly central. It is useful to see that there are no hard and fast rules. I wonder what the official guide lines are of 9-12 year-old fiction? Judging by my (not comprehensive in the slightest) research, it's that anything goes. 

I suppose it's like any book. If it grabs you on the first page, you'll read it to the end, no matter how long it is. For now, I'll just keep waffling on with any old rubbish, but spend the next six months making page 1 an absolute cracker. Or something.

Have a lovely week, folks.

* Put that pen and paper down - I'll be 56! Just call me Carol Vorderman. And yes, I did use my calculator.


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