Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Word Count

I am a picture book writer. I write short manuscripts. We try to make the best story with the least amount of words. But, those words have to be the best 500 or so words you can write.

I'm okay with that.

But I have written a middle grade story that I am about ready to submit again (after more revising) and it is currently at 21,500 words.

They say middle grade should be between 25,000 to 45,000 words.

I have started another middle grade story. It is currently at 8000 words. I was hoping to get it to at least 20,000 words, but I do not know if I can do that or not.

There are exceptions and I have seen them. On Renaissance Learning's site you can search for books by title or name and they tell you the word count and interest level (middle grade, lower grades, etc.).
I have found many books with lower word counts ranging from 8000 to 14000 words listed in the middle grade interest level (grades 4-8). Some of these are written by Patricia MacLachlan of Sarah, Plain and Tall and Skylark fame. I love those books.

Another book I love, Because of Winn-Dixie comes in at only 21,000 words.

So, my question to writers out there is do smaller word count books have a chance?

On another subject -
I delivered some of the July issues of Two-Lane Livin' magazine today. I walked into a little diner in town and one of the customers said to me.
"Looks like I have perfect timing. I love those magazines!"
I took one over to him and laid the rest down.
"I know who you are," he said. "You're Janet Smart."
I said, "That's right. How did you know?"
"You write a column in here. You know I like this magazine better than the Jackson Herald."

It is nice when you get to see and talk to the people who read your writing. It makes it a little more satisfying. (By the way, the Jackson Herald is our county's weekly newspaper.)

Happy Writing!
posted by Janet F. Smart on Creative Writing in the Blackberry Patch.


  1. I think story trumps all when it comes to any book, so if you can write an excellent story with few words, it definitely has a chance. Because of Winn Dixie is a perfect example.

  2. A pastor told me it was a lot easier to make a 45 minute sermon than a 5 minute one. I guess the same is true for writing.

  3. It's better to be lean and mean than overblown and flowery. But if you can add more character layers and do more showing than telling you can add to those existing words pretty fast and have a more dimensional story. Look through it again and see if you can find a new beta reader.

  4. Best wishes publishing your children's middle school book. How awesome for readers to recognize you and comment on enjoying your column in this magazine. I know that made you feel good. This is one of the rewards for the hard work involved writing. Best wishes submitting your children's books.

  5. Hi There, I just spent a little time reading through your posts, which I found entirely by mistake whilst researching one of my projects. Please continue to write more because it’s unusual that someone has something interesting to say about this. Will be waiting for more!

  6. I am so excited about finding your blog. I would love to write children's books. I just graduated from college last December at the age of forty-eight. You are never too old to reach your goals. I taught for preschool for ten years and my degree is Early Childhood Care and Education, Birth - Age 5. Children's literacy and language development are very close to my heart. I am so excited about spending more time exploring your blog and learning how to get started. Thank you for your willingness to share.


Thank you for your comments. I love comments!