I spend a lot of time thinking about word count. It’s a more useful means of tracking my progress than pages. And of course there are all these industry standards by genre of how long books usually are. But I confess, I often wonder how long, word count wise, some of the books I read are. Because, of course, when you buy them, they don’t list that. They only have page count. And these days the 250 words a page rule doesn’t necessarily hold. But it’s just something that kind of fascinates me. How you’ll get books that are approximately the same length and one may feel super short and the other dense and rich. Which has a lot to do with style and word choice and what not.
As I’ve been on this contemporary romance kick lately, I actually got the bright idea to convert them all to RTF with Calibre and dump them into Word where I could delete all the front and back matter and see how long the actual STORY is. And yeah, I know I can just go google genre conventions, but this is much more interesting to me having read the stories. It’s been kind of surprising. One that felt short came in at 95k. The Lucky Harbor books mostly seem to be between 75-78k. The first of Shannon Stacey’s Kowalski series hits at just under 73k. Since I’m considering writing some CR (with those boatloads of spare time I have floating around, right?) length is something I definitely want to consider.
Possibly this is of interest to no one but me. I’d also be curious how much story is between all the “icky love stuff” (seriously…this is what I called it as a kid–who knew I’d become a hard core romance fan as an adult?) in some of these books (i.e. if you delete all the love scenes, does it still have a solid plot? One would hope so). That’s actually something Susan and I’ve been discussing (as I’ve gotten HER off on a CR kick too and we’ve been reading the same stuff and discussing). Quite a bit of CR out there seems to have a reasonably solid romantic plot, but any external plot is very thin or mostly a subplot–which has led to my general feeling after reading a lot of them that “nothing actually happened”.
Plot is supposed to be CONFLICT. Character wants something because of some reason, but can’t have it because of some conflict. If this is mostly the hero and heroine having misunderstandings and being stupid about each other, it doesn’t make for a satisfying story. There ought to be some kind of external conflict. They should be at odds somehow, in conflict with each other over something other than I don’t wanna fall in love!
Then, of course, you have chick lit as a genre, where the heroine’s journey is mostly the point of the book. It seems over time, that there has been a narrowing of the gap or even a blurring of lines between a lot of contemporary romance and chick lit. And with it, you have stuff with more character arc focused plots than actual plot plots. Which is not some kind of judgment or indictment of the genre, just an observation and trying to sort out what’s considered acceptable. As a reader I still mostly want both, which has led to my difficulties in finding what I want. Plus that sometimes the bookstores don’t actually categorize things the way they should be categorized. But that’s a whole other kettle of fish.