Standard Word Counts

You are about to embark on a long and challenging journey and so far you have only stared at a blank sheet of paper or a computer screen in the search for inspiration. It might seem too early too worry about the length of your novel, but I consider that some forward planning is essential. You will know where you are headed and the size of the task you are about to undertake.

There is a standard length for a novel, and that is generally between 80,000 and 110,000 words. Ideally, you should be aiming for about 80,000 to 90,000 words. That is what you might call the perfect size.

Is it permissable to venture outside that range? Epics are sometimes longer than 110,000 words because of their much greater detail and complexity. A novel that is slightly less than 80,000 words may also be acceptable. But if you are not an established author, try to stay in the safe zone.

There are some genres with their own standard lengths. Science fiction and fantasy novels are often up to 110,000 words, but are ideally between 90,000 and 110,00 words. That extra length is tolerated because of the need to create imaginary worlds in elaborate detail.

Young adult novels vary widely in length, but 60,000 words is regarded as a safe minimum.

Middle grade novels are much shorter. The length can range from 20,000 to 50,000 words, depending on the anticipated age of the readers.

A novella is a short novel. Novellas should have between 30,000 to 60,000 words to be acceptable for publication.

Why conform to a standard length?

You have some flexibility if you intend to independently publish your novel. Many indie authors are choosing to write novels with word counts under 80,000 words, novellas or even short stories.

Some of the major online book outlets include word count or an estimate of the number of print pages in each book. That helps buyers to gauge the length of their potential purchase. I would never suggest that writing quality has any relationship to word count. However, a novel has more chance of attracting readers or potential publishers if they can see that your work is a standard length. It indicates that you have some knowledge of your craft. Have you ever read a novel that you felt seemed far too short or too long?

How to calculate your word count

We no longer need to estimate the number of words on a page and then multiply by the number of pages. No matter what formatting we choose, our word processing software can instantly tell us the number of words in a document. Not only that, but it also reveals the number of characters, paragraphs, lines and pages.

It only requires two clicks. Simply go to the menu bar at the top of your screen, press tools and select word count from the drop-down menu. If you want the word count of a section of text, block that out and then repeat the procedure.

Monitor the word count

I always write a detailed outline before starting to write a novel and closely monitor the word count from the first day. It gives me a feeling of satisfaction and relief to see that my project is heading steadily towards that 80,000 word minimum, and that major plot points are achieved at the appropriate intervals. I will have much more to say about story structure and writing an outline in future articles.

I would love to hear what you think about the word count of a novel.

Text and Image copyright © 2016 Toni Pike  – All Rights Reserved

Toni Pike is the author of The Jotham Fletcher Mystery Thriller Series – conspiracy thrillers about a secret sect, a deadly Brotherhood and a man on a mission to stop them both.

Book 1 is The Magus CovenantThe secret that will change the world

Book 2 is The Rock of Magus   – Code Red in the Vatican

Book 3 is The Magus EpiphanyAncient treasures and a new revelation

Pike set out to write a thriller of epic proportions and she knocked it out of the park!

Read more about these action-packed thrillers here: About The Jotham Fletcher Mystery Thriller Series

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