Sunday, September 27, 2009

Word Count Worries?

I've been writing screenplays for awhile and I've got page count down. Stay around 120 pages for drama features, 90 pages for thrillers, action/adventure, and comedies (romantic or otherwise), 55 for TV drama scripts, 30 for sitcoms. More or less. Preferably less.

But I'm changing my focus to writing kiddy lit, so I was thrilled to see a recent Writer's Digest blog about word count for novels and children's literature. The areas I'm working on now are picture books and a YA novel. The advice given for picture books is under 500 words. There I'm okay. Most of the picture books I've written so far are usually under 200 words. I am writing for the toddler crowd, so there's little need for much plot. What's the conflict in Goodnight Moon? Bunny delays bedtime by saying good night too much. What really counts is how to use those precious few words, building rhythm and a sense of satisfaction at the end.

The YA novel is more complicated. Word count should be between 50,000-69,999 words, which translates into roughly 250-350 pages (feel free to double-check my math). This would be longer than anything I've written, comparable to 2 features, 3 romantic comedies, 5 TV dramas, or 8 sitcoms! Yikes!

I'm trying not to get freaked out by word count and simply tell the story. My first draft, what I like to call the vomit draft, will be exactly long as it needs to be. Just so I get all the ideas out. Just so there are words (any words) on paper. Then I can rewrite, add more characterization, flesh out that subplot, even (gulp!) cut stuff that isn't working. Rewriting is, by far, my favorite part of writing. Don't get me wrong. It is completely agonizing in its own way, but compared to facing the dreaded blank page, rewriting is practically tiptoeing through the tulips.

So, deep breath, think happy thoughts, and don't let the word count scare you. As Alfred E. Neuman would say, "What, Me Worry?"

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