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MG Length

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CindyS

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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
#1 - July 28, 2013, 05:16 PM

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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
#2 - July 28, 2013, 05:35 PM
A RAMBLER STEALS HOME, HMH 2016
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#3 - July 28, 2013, 05:35 PM
A RAMBLER STEALS HOME, HMH 2016
EVERYTHING YOU NEED FOR A TREEHOUSE; THIS IS NOT A VALENTINE, Chronicle 2017
designofthepicturebook.com
@carterhiggins

CindyS

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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:
#4 - July 28, 2013, 05:52 PM

CindyS

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OMG, Carter. Jackpot!!! :shootingstar
That is the best description I've seen.
#5 - July 28, 2013, 05:56 PM

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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.
#6 - July 28, 2013, 06:06 PM
Learning to Swear in America (Bloomsbury, July 2016)
What Goes Up (Bloomsbury, 2017)
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CindyS

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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
#7 - July 28, 2013, 06:20 PM

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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
#8 - July 28, 2013, 06:48 PM
A Smidgen of Sky (Harcourt 2012)
A Sliver of Sun (book #2)
 A Million Ways Home (Scholastic 2014)
Just Left of Lucky (2018)
 www.diannawinget.com

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.
#9 - July 29, 2013, 08:21 PM

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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!
#10 - July 29, 2013, 08:29 PM
A RAMBLER STEALS HOME, HMH 2016
EVERYTHING YOU NEED FOR A TREEHOUSE; THIS IS NOT A VALENTINE, Chronicle 2017
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@carterhiggins

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What a great little guide! Thanks for posting the link.
#11 - July 29, 2013, 09:00 PM
Jean Reidy
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I really do love that link... Jennifer is a hoot and a half. ;)
#12 - July 30, 2013, 01:50 PM

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Oh, Carter, that link is *sooooo* helpful (and reassuring).  Thank you!

 :carrot
#13 - July 31, 2013, 10:01 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.
#14 - August 01, 2013, 10:03 AM
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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
#15 - August 01, 2013, 11:55 AM
THE VOICE OF THUNDER, WiDo Publishing Aug 2012
THERE'S A TURKEY AT THE DOOR, Hometown520 July 2011

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http://mirkabreen.BlogSpot.com

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.
#16 - August 01, 2013, 02:15 PM

CindyS

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Great conversation. Thanks everyone!
#17 - August 03, 2013, 09:28 AM

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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:
#18 - August 03, 2013, 11:23 AM

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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.
#19 - August 05, 2013, 07:20 AM

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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.
#20 - August 13, 2013, 02:03 PM
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mswatkins

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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/
#21 - August 14, 2013, 07:01 PM
« Last Edit: August 14, 2013, 07:06 PM by msw »

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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!
#22 - November 04, 2013, 12:25 PM

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
#23 - December 27, 2013, 03:46 AM
12 books in 12 months! Follow my Chapter Book 12x12 journey at www.childrenswriter.in

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.
#24 - December 27, 2013, 05:34 AM

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

#25 - December 27, 2013, 12:12 PM
In Real Life, Tuttle Publishing, Fall 2014

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 :)
#26 - January 15, 2014, 07:39 AM

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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.
#27 - January 20, 2014, 01:59 PM
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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.)
#28 - January 21, 2014, 04:16 PM
You can find my stuff at: uggc://plorephyg.bet/~fnenu/oybt.ugzy

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.
#29 - January 22, 2014, 07:12 AM
In Real Life, Tuttle Publishing, Fall 2014

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.
#30 - January 22, 2014, 02:00 PM
You can find my stuff at: uggc://plorephyg.bet/~fnenu/oybt.ugzy

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