Are We There Yet? Or, Does Size Really Matter?

As I find myself struggling with the sequel to An Improper Situation, I find it is not the story that is giving me a hard time, but the word count. I look over at the bottom left of my Word screen every once in a while and see the number that is decidedly too low. Or is it?

An Improper Situation was nearly 110,000 words and so, it seemed to me, its sequel ought to be close. At this moment, however, I’m not sure it can be, will be, or should be. I’m on Chapter 23 of the as-yet-untitled story of Sophie Malloy and Riley Dalcourt, and their tale is clearly winding down. I was so distraught when I realized I wasn’t going to write 31 chapters and 100,000 words with these two characters that I searched the Internet for “average length of a romance novel.”

Obviously, there were plenty of answers, but one stood out based on actual data from about 85,000 books in the Book Genome Project. I give the link here for other writers and for interested readers. The post is from March 2012; here’s what caught my eye:

“Of the 16,284 Romance titles in our corpus, the average length is 76,000 words.”

For that, I’m “write” on track, which is a relief, because I wouldn’t want to have to pad or stretch a story. It’s much more like me to have to cut one. I have another manuscript, contemporary fiction, that was topping 175,000 words and I’ve been cutting it each time I rewrite it, until it is now at a respectable 125,000.

I want to thank Aaron Stanton of Booklamp.org for posting that useful info, which includes stats on POV, as well. And I urge fellow writers to take a look at Aaron’s stats if they feel at all word-count anxious or length-challenged.

Now, back to my story, currently about to top 60,000 words.