Word Count Eligability Question

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Miser
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Word Count Eligability Question

Postby Miser » Wed Sep 10, 2014 6:43 pm

On the Rules page for the contest it says there is a hard cap for word count at 17,000 words. Is this true? If so, it disqualifies literally everything that would qualify as a novella for the Hugo Awards, for instance, since that catagory starts at 17,500 words.

I just finished a novella I was going to submit to this contest, but I guess I overshot the mark by quite a bit, disqualifying myself. Is there a rational for this, besides saving the judges from some reading. (Although not really, since I assume if the story wasn't a contender they wouldn't get anywhere close to 17,000 words anyway, so anything beyond that is just superfluous.)

Kary English
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Re: Word Count Eligability Question

Postby Kary English » Wed Sep 10, 2014 7:16 pm

Is there a rationale? Well, it's a short story contest. :D OK, so novelettes are allowed, but really, can you imagine the cost of producing an anthology with 12 or 13 novellas? Especially if they were longer novellas in the 25,000 range?

Also, the word count is for a manuscript in Standard Manuscript Format (SMF), meaning Courier 12 pt., six inches of text, 25 lines per page, no more than 68 pages.

This can be quite different than the count your word processor gives, and we've had an entrant or two get notes back that their mss. were too long.

It's hard being a novella writer. One of my favorite entrants here writes novellas (*cough*Dr.Bob*cough). Believe me, you have my sympathy for the scarcity of markets for that length. That said, I can't really think of an anthology market that accepts them. Length = $$$.

Tor has a new imprint that takes novellas, though. Perhaps you can try that one?
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Nick_T
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Re: Word Count Eligability Question

Postby Nick_T » Thu Sep 11, 2014 2:48 am

Also, the word count is for a manuscript in Standard Manuscript Format (SMF), meaning Courier 12 pt., six inches of text, 25 lines per page, no more than 68 pages.


Kary's correct. As a rule of thumb, following SMF gives you roughly 250 words per page at the *lower* limit. To be on the safe side, I'd personally try for around 60 pages myself. Don't forget that SMF is typically double-spaced (see http://www.shunn.net/format/story.html, though venues do vary greatly in their requirements).

For the novellas you've seen in the Hugo list, keep in mind that they're almost always from very-well established writers (including our very own Brad). It's very rare to see one of the big magazines take a risk on a complete unknown for a novella length work. It does happen, but it's difficult to break in writing longer work (as both Dr. Bob and I know...). The contest's word limit is actually quite generous in the context of a contest for people looking to break into the pro markets and I don't know what I would have done for my first sale if the contest didn't exist.

The new TOR imprint is probably the best market in terms of prestige and pay for the novella length at the moment. Gigantasaurus and the Panverse anthologies are also prestigious. All are very hard to get into. There are probably a few others around that I don't know about, but they're the ones that come to mind.
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Ishmael
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Re: Word Count Eligability Question

Postby Ishmael » Thu Sep 11, 2014 9:11 am

And anyone who can get 250 words into a page as described above is using VERY SHORT WORDS!

I am struggling away with an average of around 218 words per page. This apparently means that for me the upper limit of this contest is well under 15,000 words.

I should like to point out that American spellings are usually shorter than English spellings. For example, (if I may be permitted to revive for a moment that old controversy regarding the past participle of the verb to fit,) it will be noted that the American version has three letters and the English version six. The difference sounds negligible but is of course 100%.

And let me tell you US words are shorter than English. Take the past tense of fit - 3 letters in American and 6 in English. That's twice as long.

There may be something abbreviated about American grammar too, come to think of it. wotf019
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s_c_baker
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Re: Word Count Eligability Question

Postby s_c_baker » Thu Sep 11, 2014 3:29 pm

It's worthwhile to note that "wordcount" doesn't mean "reported wordcount in MS Word" for contest purposes (or most magazine's purposes).

There are numerous ways to calculate wordcount, e.g. http://www.sfwa.org/2005/01/what-is-a-word/

I'm pretty sure someone (Martin?) mentioned a comment from Dave or KD that one of his stories had technically been too long to win, even though the MS wordcount was below the 17,000 mark.

If you're over by 500 words, though, you should easily be able to cut--and likely end up with a tighter story besides.
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Martin L. Shoemaker
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Re: Word Count Eligability Question

Postby Martin L. Shoemaker » Thu Sep 11, 2014 5:48 pm

s_c_baker wrote:I'm pretty sure someone (Martin?) mentioned a comment from Dave or KD that one of his stories had technically been too long to win, even though the MS wordcount was below the 17,000 mark.


16,996.

Four words under... I was so proud...

Only to learn that it was "really" 18,500 words...
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Randy Hulshizer
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Re: Word Count Eligability Question

Postby Randy Hulshizer » Mon Sep 28, 2015 7:32 am

Hi. I noticed that Sharon Joss' recent win "Stars That Make Dark Heaven Light" calculates at about 18239 in Microsoft Word. When reformatted into Courier New 12 pt and double spaced, it is about 82 or 83 pages in length. Using a standard count (250 per page), that would be about 20,500 words. Does this indicate that WotF is loosening up its word count limits?
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Ishmael
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Re: Word Count Eligability Question

Postby Ishmael » Mon Sep 28, 2015 7:44 am

I think it indicates that a work of genius is not going to be disqualified for being a tad too long. Of course you do not get to decide whether or not your own work is a work of genius.
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Randy Hulshizer
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Re: Word Count Eligability Question

Postby Randy Hulshizer » Mon Sep 28, 2015 11:57 am

Check out Sharon Joss' response over in this other thread:
viewtopic.php?f=1&t=2121#p71512
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