Sunday, September 14, 2008

Word Count I

How simple can a concept be?

Word count is the number of words in your document. Microsoft Word, which I use, has a handy dandy little tool that counts the number of words in my manuscript. And I use that count when writing to an agent or publisher.

Wrong. Word count, as strange as it seems, is not necessarily the actual number of words in your manuscript. For paper, word count's meaning is mangled to mean how many vertical lines can fit on a page. Publishers want to know how many sheets of paper they need to print your story.

For example:

"Hi, there. How are you?"

"Hi, yourself. I'm fine."


The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog. These are the times that try men's souls. Today is the first day of the rest of your life

Have exactly the same word count. Why? Because both snippets take up two vertical lines on the page.

The print industry standard is a one inch margin on all sides, twenty-five lines per page, Courier or Courier New 12 point, widow and orphan control off. A page printed in this manner is considered to have 250 words on the page, or ten words per line.

Oh, and you start a new chapter about two-thirds of the way down the page, and this page also counts as 250 words, even though there are NOT twenty-five lines of type of the page.

Now, my example up there is not done in Courier New 12 point, and it does not have the one inch margins and is not spaced twenty-five lines per page, but you get the idea.

I write using Times New Roman (TNR) 12 point, but with everything else as above. When I want to see how many pages it is in Courier New, I just Select All, then change the font.

Look at all this information. Takes up only a half page of explanation, but it took forever for me to find it out. I wish somewhere they had something to explain to us newbie writers how to format our manuscripts. A caveat is always look at the submission guidelines. The trouble is, I did look there, but those guidelines didn't explain this stuff, either.

I wrote my first WIP in single space, TNR 12, until I had 100,000 words by the Word word counter. Formatted in the print format above, my WIP came out as 120,000 words. I've read that transferring electronic word count to paper word count can increase the word count by 15% to 20%. In my case, it was 20%. I could have saved myself a lot of work if I had known what I was doing.

And now that I've thoroughly confused you with paper word count, next week we'll talk about e-pub word count.

Thank you all,



Kaye Manro said...

Hi Linda!
You are so right about this. And it can be confusing. For a while now, I've used Courier New 12, 250 word per page for my mss. (Unless otherwise noted in guidelines.) You can learn this in a book, but it takes studying, reading and research. Or sharing information with other writers which is the fun way and what we are doing now!

If you want, you can list that you will be on my blog on your release day. And don't forget to promote yourself for being on Helen's blog the day you will be doing that too. I say it's never to soon to promote--remind people often when your release date will be. Suzanne McMinn, a multi-published author at HQN says things like-- 85 days!! until the release of what the next book is.
Talk to you soon... K

Linda Banche said...

Hi Kaye,
I've added your and Helen's blog. I thought I had. And the counter is a good idea. Thanks.