I mentioned last week on Twitter that I was toying with the idea of creating a calculator for turning word counts into estimated book pages for YA novels. Well, newsflash, I’m not a programmer, so there’s no cool Java calculator, but I can provide these two tricks. First, the crudest. 40,000 words in a relatively standard format (i.e. a mix of narrative paragraphs and dialogue without too many unusual things like court-room transcriptions*, etc.) will be just over 200 pages on a conventional 5 3/16 by 8” books page with normal margins. This is crude, like I said, but in the ballpark for sure.
For a slightly less crude, slightly more specific estimate, try this. Save your manuscript in a separate file. Strip out all the tabs (you can do this by finding “^t” and replacing it with nothing using find and replace). Change the page/paper size to custom and set the dimensions at 5.25 by 8”. Change the margins to 1” on top and bottom and .8” on right and left. Change the font throughout to a nice serif face like Times New Roman or Garamond, etc. Now, under paragraph/line spacing options, you’ve got several things to do. First, set General to “justified.” Then under Indentation, left and right should be 0 and special should be set at “first line” and .25 inches. Under Spacing set the before and after spacing to 0. Now you want to set the line spacing to something like 11/15 (typesetter speak for type that’s 11 points high on a line that’s 15 points high). To get this, set line spacing at “exactly” and 15 pts. Make sure this applies to all the type, and you’ll get a decent page count estimate for a YA novel. For a MG novel, you might want slightly larger type and line space (12/16?).
* In a college creative writing course I took where you had to turn a minimum number of pages, the clever thing to do was write courtroom cross-examinations where the attorney asked a lot of brief yes-or-no questions to the witness who dutifully responded yes or no. Ate up a lot of pages with a few words.