Romance author Susan Gable has been posting some good information over at Booksquare. For instance, earlier this week, she talked about Harlequin's new word counts.

…the latest news is that many of the longer lines (referred to in the romance community as the Long Contemporaries – lines such as Superromance, Silhouette Special Edition, Silhouette Intimate Moments…) are being shortened, in general by 10K words.For example, the Superromance line, which I’ve been writing for, used to have guidelines of 80-85K. That gave the writer room to create a more complex story, with more subplots and secondary characters. The line will now be 70-75K.

A good place to see how this breaks down is at Angelle Trieste's blog.

Today, Susan has posted this over at Booksquare.

A follow-up on my last post about Harlequin cutting words from their longer lines — I received information from the Senior Editor of my line (Superromance) that basically what’s going on is a change in HOW we count words. Instead of using the old standard of ms formating for the 250 words per page method, we arenow moving to the new computer word count method. That means that my last Super, which was 340 formatted ms pages or 85K on the dot for the old method (I’m one of the long-winded writers who pushed to the edge of the alloted space, bigsurprise (g)) and is 71K-ish by the word count function in Word, is exactly on target for the new range of word count.

Okay, so how many of you are as confused as I am? When I wrote my first novel, waaaaay back when, I used computer wordcount because I was too ignorant to realize that isn't how it was done. So a manuscript that clocked in at 120,000 words was actually much longer when done the 250 words per page way. I had 800 manuscript pages at Courier 12, so in fact it was probably MUCH longer than 120,000, but I can't remember because it was a long time ago and that book is not on this computer. (If I formatted it properly, then that's a 200,000 word novel, or the equivalent of 2 single titles–yikes!)

I think I would prefer computer count. It's easy. Hit a button and voila, there you go. Writers are always confused, in my experience, as to how to count words. Someone in my Wednesday night group has a mss that's 420 pages in TNR 12. She has believed for several years that this is a 100,000 word mss (she never used computer count, just estimated by pages without realizing that 100K refers to a Courier 12, 250 words per page mss). When we took three random pages and averaged the words, then multiplied by the number of pages (a method recommended by Leslie Wainger in Writing a Romance Novel for Dummies), it was far longer than she'd thought. Long enough to scare her because as we all know, romance publishers aren't going to buy a 150,000 word novel.

No one is confused by computer count, however. Hit the button, get a word count. It would certainly standardize things for writers. On the other hand, you still need a standard mss format because how does an editor know that the Bookman 11 she's looking at is really 80K? Let's get some approved proportional fonts and go to town! I know that some writers submit in TNR 12, and Harlequin seems open to that anyway, but other publishers might not be. It's confusing!

I'll probably keep doing what I do, which is write in TNR 12 and then frequently change to Courier 12, 25 lines per page, just to see what it looks like. I also use computer count, but not as my final count. I aim for the standard pages per designated word count, which is what I'm checking when I switch the mss to Courier.

If Harlequin really means computer count, and they aren't actually chopping words off the lines, then more power to them. Make it easier on everyone by letting the CPU do the math. 🙂