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Writer's Room => Chapter Books, Easy Readers, and Middle Grade (MG) => Topic started by: CindyS on July 28, 2013, 05:16 PM

Title: MG Length
Post by: CindyS on July 28, 2013, 05:16 PM
Hi-
I have read a great deal about general length parameters. My question is: is there a max at which a MG novel would be dismissed without reading? I have a YA paranormal that I am thinking of restructuring to a MG; mainly because of the lack of an edgy factor. I struggled since the beginning which way to go with it. It is, at this point, beyond 70K and I am wondering how much I will need to count if I go the MG route. Opinions???

Thanks,
Cindy
Title: Re: MG Length
Post by: carterhiggins on July 28, 2013, 05:35 PM
I pretty much always have this tab open in my browser. It's from Jennifer Laughran's blog (Literaticat in these parts and on Twitter!) and I think it's the best explanation of word count across the board. I love that she references specific titles and the range within each bunch.

Good luck! :gogirl
Title: Re: MG Length
Post by: carterhiggins on July 28, 2013, 05:35 PM
Duh, the link, Carter. Oops. It's this:

http://literaticat.blogspot.com/2011/05/wordcount-dracula.html
Title: Re: MG Length
Post by: CindyS on July 28, 2013, 05:52 PM
Thanks!  I know it is too long as it stands, but wonder how tough they are on the length. I will head over there and take a look.  :eyeballs:
Title: Re: MG Length
Post by: CindyS on July 28, 2013, 05:56 PM
OMG, Carter. Jackpot!!! :shootingstar
That is the best description I've seen.
Title: Re: MG Length
Post by: dewsanddamps on July 28, 2013, 06:06 PM
When I was going to write a MG, I wandered around the house and picked up the first 5 MG books I saw, and checked them for length. My agent informed me that the ms. was definitely too long. (Curse you, Rick Riordan! Shakes fist in general direction of Greece.)

She said that a MG should be under 300 pp.
Title: Re: MG Length
Post by: CindyS on July 28, 2013, 06:20 PM
Thanks, There is so much varying information out there. I know that mine is too long, but want  a range to shoot for! I appreciate the help
Title: Re: MG Length
Post by: Dianna Winget on July 28, 2013, 06:48 PM
Thank you, Carter! I'm working up a nuts and bolts workshop for an upcoming conference and was looking for just such info on books and word lengths.  :flowers2
Title: Re: MG Length
Post by: Kurtis on July 29, 2013, 08:21 PM
I like Jen's list because it has a more realistic range for middle grade, a lot of those things seem to be copy-pasting from very old resources that suggest middle grade is always in the 20-40K range, when most of the ones I see are much longer.
Title: Re: MG Length
Post by: carterhiggins on July 29, 2013, 08:29 PM
And she's hilarious and so gracious, too!

That's great advice dewsanddamps! Relatedly, I found that being a voracious MG reader made me not as obsessive about my word count. I mean, I always sort of thought about it, but definitely had a good pulse on what felt right, pacing-wise.

Good luck to you, CindyS!
Title: Re: MG Length
Post by: Jean Reidy on July 29, 2013, 09:00 PM
What a great little guide! Thanks for posting the link.
Title: Re: MG Length
Post by: JosephDMMiller on July 30, 2013, 01:50 PM
I really do love that link... Jennifer is a hoot and a half. ;)
Title: Re: MG Length
Post by: carrots on July 31, 2013, 10:01 AM
Oh, Carter, that link is *sooooo* helpful (and reassuring).  Thank you!

 :carrot
Title: Re: MG Length
Post by: read lisa scott on August 01, 2013, 10:03 AM
My middle grade novel coming out with Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins is 60,000 words.  I was panicking about the length during revisions and my editor said not to worry about it.
Title: Re: MG Length
Post by: 217mom on August 01, 2013, 11:55 AM
Middle Grade, itself a fuzzy category, is a flexible word-count/chapter-length/number of chapters  sort of animal.

What I found confusing is the constant assertion that kids are reading less and less, that vocabularies are poorer, and then watch the word count for same kids get larger and larger. I still don't know what to make of this once ten-to-twenty-five-thousand category, now twenty-five-to-sixty-thousand words. It's sometimes explained as the HP phenomenon and resurgence of high fantasy, but I suspect it has to do with a different aspect of the HP revolution: the selling of MG novels to adults. Maybe this is why they are not listed as 8-12 as much as they used to, but as 10 and up, presuming no numerical limit to the "up."

If you know you are writing a young MG (ages 7-9 or so) as opposed to the new kind (10 and up) then the old numbers might still be in the right count. Seems that your changing from YA categorization is for the older MG.

Personally, it is humbling to think of my creative art in counting terms...  :yup
Title: Re: MG Length
Post by: Kurtis on August 01, 2013, 02:15 PM
I've had the same thought... and while being a great, funny writer is definitely reason number one that Tom Angleberger is a star, I think the shorter format is a second reason. Kids are not intimidated by his books.

AR figures into it, rewarding kids for reading long books. Otherwise I can't figure it out.
Title: Re: MG Length
Post by: CindyS on August 03, 2013, 09:28 AM
Great conversation. Thanks everyone!
Title: Re: MG Length
Post by: lab on August 03, 2013, 11:23 AM
An editor recently told me anywhere between 200-450 pages is acceptable for MG manuscripts at most houses. But, he also said there are always exceptions to this.   :shrug:
Title: Re: MG Length
Post by: hairaplenty on August 05, 2013, 07:20 AM
http://www.renlearn.com/store/quiz_home.asp?c=1

This website can tell you the length of already published books, which I sometimes find helpful.
Go down right to "online store."
Then click QUIZ.
It works better if you put the author in rather than a title.
Title: Re: MG Length
Post by: JonathanMaberry on August 13, 2013, 02:03 PM
I pitched a new MG series to Simon & Schuster with an anticipated length of 20-40k, but they countered with an offer based on 60-70k. Made me re-assess the story. So, now I'm building bigger story lines with more characters and more action.
Title: Re: MG Length
Post by: mswatkins on August 14, 2013, 07:01 PM
Colin Meloy's Wildwood series is about 120k words per book.  I enjoyed book one immensely and book two is just as fun, but he doubles the recommended word count. 

I found this site that gives word count, reading level, and more.  I thought others may find it helpful, too. 

http://www.perma-bound.com/library/
Title: Re: MG Length
Post by: Christina Soontornvat on November 04, 2013, 12:25 PM
Just throwing in my own experience because I also agonized over my long word count! I queried my (now signed-with) agent with a MG fantasy that was 75K. She had absolutely no qualms with the length. In fact, during our revision I made it even longer! Total disclosure: another revision round cut it down to 67K, but that cut had to do with storyline and not the length all on its own. Just wanted to give evidence that your story should be as long as it needs to be, no more, no less. Which is SO unhelpful, I know!
Title: Re: MG Length
Post by: writingale on December 27, 2013, 03:46 AM
OMG, my current MG WIP looks like it will end at 25k!!!


So publishers are really looking at 50k+ (200 pages) word lengths now?

 :twitch



R
Title: Re: MG Length
Post by: ChristineSarmel on December 27, 2013, 05:34 AM
I think some other factors play into acceptable word count:


-early vs. upper MG
-amount of illustration
-target audience -- a book for "reluctant" readers (not fond of that term, but it gets used) would be shorter
-word count in line with the vocabulary, plot structure, setting, style choices of the rest of the book. A contemporary with a school setting and short chapters probably doesn't need 60K. An elaborate fantasy world is difficult, if not impossible, to build in 25K.
Title: Re: MG Length
Post by: LTMadison on December 27, 2013, 12:12 PM
http://www.renlearn.com/store/quiz_home.asp#quicksearch (http://www.renlearn.com/store/quiz_home.asp#quicksearch)

I know this site has been referenced numerous times, but I've found it handy in terms of looking at comparable books. Some of this year's top non-fantasy MG titles:

Counting by 7's  67k
National Book Award Winner The Thing About Luck 48k
National Book Award Finalist True Blue Scouts of Sugar Maple Swamp 51.5k
Better Nate Than Ever 57k
Treasure Hunters (James Patterson) 43k

Title: Re: MG Length
Post by: RevellWriting on January 15, 2014, 07:39 AM
OMG, my current MG WIP looks like it will end at 25k!!!


So publishers are really looking at 50k+ (200 pages) word lengths now?

 :twitch



R


No, you're fine :)
Title: Re: MG Length
Post by: sandycarl on January 20, 2014, 01:59 PM
Thanks, Carter, for the awesome link to Jen's blogsite on this issue.
Yes, there are exceptions to any rule. But the rule of thumb is to learn to follow the rules first, and then you can feel free to break them.
Of course, even that rule of thumb could be broken.

Good luck with your story and word count.
Make every word count.
Title: Re: MG Length
Post by: SarahW on January 21, 2014, 04:16 PM
I wanted to ask about minimum count, since it's related. What is the minimum word count a MG book would be dismissed without reading? So far it seems unlikely it will get past 20,000 words. (Depending on how revising goes.)
Title: Re: MG Length
Post by: LTMadison on January 22, 2014, 07:12 AM
Go to the Renaissance site I reference above and plug in some comparables. The younger your target, the shorter the book (in general). Check out Frindle and others by Andrew Clements, for instance.
Title: Re: MG Length
Post by: SarahW on January 22, 2014, 02:00 PM
Interestingly enough, the book I was looking at actually had a word goal I might find reachable. It's still going to take a few days to do, but it's much more possible.
Title: Re: MG Length
Post by: Carl Hackman on March 17, 2014, 04:38 AM
My novel lengths and status at the moment:

Gerald: Upper MG, Humorous Fantasy - Querying - 77,000 (HP published at 77,500,  Terry Pratchett Upper MG novels consistently 90k+; novels from these two authors I used for reference.  JKR's was a debut but obviously TP is very well established.)
Jaguar: Upper MG, Contemp Fantasy - In Revision - 70,000
Wilfrid: Upper MG, Medieval Fantasy - WIP - heading for high 60's

I have seen a wide range of word counts for Upper MG but I think fantasy gives more leeway.  I do think that Gerald's word count may be hurting my query although no rejection has mentioned it yet.
Title: Re: MG Length
Post by: sameyers on March 17, 2014, 08:34 AM
Thank you so much! This is a wonderful link.

God bless,
Susan
Title: Re: MG Length
Post by: Melissa on March 17, 2014, 12:06 PM
My first two MG books (fantasy adventure, ages 9-12) are 73k & 71k.  The third  one (in revision right now) is at 68k.  I expect it'll expand another 2-4k (mine always do).


I think the actual contract is for 45k-65k in length, but I'm not that length would have ever worked for this story. I believe, however, that those numbers for length are how they define "middle grade" as there is at least one other MG contract with the same house that uses the same numbers for length.
Title: Re: MG Length
Post by: Barbara Etlin on March 17, 2014, 12:21 PM
I think fantasy gets more leeway for higher word counts.

If you are a debut author, it's a good idea to aim for the target lengths that literaticat mentions in the link above. Once you're a proven author, you can get away with extra long or extra short manuscripts.
Title: Re: MG Length
Post by: Mike Jung on March 17, 2014, 01:09 PM
The version of my book that sold was approximately 40k words, and it ended up at 53k after going through the editorial process.