Stuck, stuck, stuck in a rut

Have you ever had an image in your head, an idea so strong you can see it, you can taste it, you can smell it…your fingers are poised over the keyboard, you’re ready to type…and your muse laughs, walks over to an overstuffed chair, sits down and says, “I’m not writing it and you can’t make me”?

Argh, I want to strangle my muse!  I want to turn him upside down and shake him until his eyeballs fall out.  For those of you who don’t know, my muse is a cheeky little meadow gnome who talks incessantly and at the moment he’s driving me insane.  There is this scene that I want to go a certain way and no matter what I do, he keeps steering me down another path.  His path.  I balk.  He balks.  We fight and struggle.  The scene goes  nowhere.  It’s stuck.

If the scene goes the way my brain tells me to take it, I can wrap it up in a nice little package.  Bing, bam, boom, it’s done.  It’s tidy.  It’s clean.  If I follow my muse, the scene will get complicated, deepening the story line.  I’ll have to edit several scenes towards the end of the novel, but they’ll be more intense.  A minor plot hole will be filled.  Still, all the scenes combined will up my word count, something I’m trying to avoid.  If I take my path, I’ll stay within my word count.  The minor plot hole will be still be there but I can fill it in in the next book. Still, I don’t like leaving plot holes, and I do want my story to be as rich and intense and as mind-blowing as possible.

“But I don’t want the added word count.”  I whine and stomp my foot

“Add the words,” my muse says.  “You can thank me later.”



“Ahh, stop it!”  I pull hair out of my head.

Which path should I take?  Should I play it safe and take the path of least resistance…keep the story tight, or should I follow my muse and disrupt my character’s lives by throwing in another twist that wasn’t there before?  Word count or plot?  This tired, battle-worn author wants to know.

Words, smurds…how many to use

When I was hosting my local writer’s group meetings, one of the most frequent questions to come up was ‘What is the average word count for xyz type novel?’

The answers have been pretty consistent over the years, however, there seems to be a few minor changes, according to CA Marshall, Freelance Editor, Lit Agent Intern and YA writer.  You can find her complete blog here but I’ll share the highlights with you below.  Remember, there are always exceptions to the rules. When in doubt, check and double-check the Agent’s and/or Publisher’s website for submission guidelines.  Happy writing and editing!

Average Word Counts

Micro-Fiction – up to 100 words
Flash Fiction – 100 – 1,000 words, usually no more than 500.
Short Story – 1,000 – 7,500 words
Novellette – 7,500 – 18,000 words
Novella -20,000 – 45,000 words
General Novel – 50,000 -110,000

Genre Guidelines

Picture Books -200-500 words
Early Readers – 500-2000 words
Chapter Books – 5,000-10,000 words
Middle Grade – 25,000-45,000 words, most averaging 35k.
Young adult – 55,000-90,000 words
– YA contemporary tends to be on the shorter side, 60-70k
– YA fantasy, sci-fi, and paranormal tends to fall on the longer side due to world building, 70-90k
Adult – 70,000-115,000 words
– Romance – 85,000-100,000 words
– Cozy Mysteries – 70,000-85,000 words
– Mysteries, Horror, Crime – 75,000-95,000 words, most averaging 90k
– Sci-fi and Fantasy – 80,000-120,000 words, most averaging 100k-115k
– Literary and Women’s Fiction – 80,000-100,000 words