Monday, May 21, 2012

Word Count

As most of you know, magazine editors have word count limits.  Literary agents or editors may impose word limits when critiquing your work.  You job is easy:  keep your submission within the limits.

Recently, I received an 1800-word nonfiction submission for the educational website Viatouch,  where I'm an associate editor.  The guidelines state that we accept pieces that are 500 words.  The writer had read our guidelines and politely asked if I’d take a look at this longer piece.  But the article was much too long.  If it had been 600 words, I would have considered it.  The writer also suggested that the piece could be broken into 3 shorter pieces.  Perhaps, this is what she should have done in the first place.

Magazine editors establish word counts based on the needs of their audience.  The editor of the writers' e-newsletter Extra Innings likes the articles to run about 300 -500 words.  He believes that his readers like shorter pieces.  For Stories for Children Magazine, the word count varies for each of our three age group categories.  The younger kids like the shorter pieces and the older kids are more interested in the longer pieces. 

Editors and literary agents set fairly strick word counts when doing critiques.  They have stacks of submissions to read; so, the word count gives them just enough of a manuscript to get a feel for the story.        

If you are writing a magazine article or sending in a critique to a literary agent or editor, be mindful of the word limit.  Should your piece exceed the limit just a tad, it’s generally okay to submit it.  When in doubt, ask.  But it you’ve written an article that is grossly over the limit, an acceptance or a favorable critique may fail to come your way.   

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