The Length of a Novel

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

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Text and Image copyright © 2017 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.

Series 4 books

There are four books in the series.

Book 1 is The Magus Covenant

The world as we know it is in peril – unless one man can uncover the truth… 

Jotham Fletcher is in Rome to give a lecture about Simon Magus at the church where he fell to his death beside the Roman Forum. Magus was a cult leader mentioned in the Bible and his libertine sect disappeared by 400 AD. But did it really die out?

A robed man is pushed from the bell tower of the church at midnight and Jotham becomes the prime suspect. His lover Antonella, an expert on ancient documents, has a shocking secret. Rumours fly about a papyrus scroll. A ruthless Catholic Brotherhood will stop at nothing in their hunt for a hidden sect. And a reclusive billionaire has the chance of a lifetime to get his revenge.

Jotham is kidnapped, tortured and on the run. He races from Italy to England to Sweden. But the body count continues to rise and so does the heat in this non-stop thriller that will leave you breathless.

Now available at all Amazon outlets: USA –  UK – Australia  – Canada – France – Germany –  Italy – Netherlands – Spain

Book 2 is The Rock of Magus

A crisis is brewing in the Vatican – and only one man can prevent disaster…

Jotham Fletcher returns in a race against time that takes him deep inside the Vatican. Cardinal Alpheus has ambitions far more sinister and explosive than anyone could imagine, and the death of Pope Linus is only the beginning.

Jotham is now a billionaire, dedicated to finding the Simonian Sect and he employs Madena, a former army officer, to help him. They rescue a televangelist in Seattle but find the photograph of a man who is soon elected as the new Pope, with Alpheus as his chief advisor.

The deadly Brotherhood re-emerges with Father Dominic at the helm. Jotham becomes the prime suspect in the murder of a cleric in Spain and the unwitting hero after a devastating event in Rome. He has a secret that he dare not reveal and is on the run from the police once again. But nothing prepares him for the final confrontation at the Pope’s summer retreat.

Now available at all Amazon outlets:  USA  – UK  –  Australia – Canada – France – Germany – Italy – Netherlands – Spain

Book 3 is The Magus Epiphany

Only one man can stop the revelation that will shatter the world…

Jotham Fletcher returns in a deadly quest to save his own family and unravel the mystery behind two ancient relics, the murder of a young woman and a shocking series of messages. Jotham and Madena have dedicated their lives to stopping the work of the secretive Simonian Sect. Their belated honeymoon in Italy is interrupted when they cross paths with the sect and hear news of a mysterious object left at the spot where Simon Magus died in Rome two thousand years ago. The hunt for answers begins – and soon they are both in mortal danger.

The maniacal new leader of the sect has a plan to rewrite history. Father Dominic, the head of the Brotherhood willing to commit any crime to find the Simonians, flees across Europe with the help of a brutal killer. A strange series of messages about a solar eclipse has the world waiting for a revelation. And with Jotham’s family at stake, he must confront a nightmare from his past.

Now available at all Amazon outlets: USA – UK – Australia – Canada – France – Germany – Italy – Netherlands – Spain

Book 4 is Holy Spear of Magus 

The Magus Covenant will be fulfilled and two thousand years of history will be swept away…

Jotham and Madena Fletcher remain dedicated to finding the Simonian Sect. They leave their baby daughter at home and travel to Krakow in Poland to investigate a theology professor known as the Guardian of the Spear. Meanwhile, a mysterious Hungarian arrives at the hilltop monastery of Saint Dimitrios in Greece in search of an ancient relic that is rumoured to be buried there.

When a large Pentecostal Church in San Diego is crippled by a cyberattack, Jotham heads there with young computer genius, Eugene Beaudreau, to find out if the sect is responsible. They meet Pastor Silas Conrad and his strange family who are all obsessed with the Holy Spear and its curative powers.

When two monks arrive from the ruthless Brotherhood led by Father Dominic, Jotham is catapulted into a desperate struggle to track down the Holy Spear and stop it falling into the wrong hands. He races to Europe – but his enemies are more diabolical than he could possibly imagine.

Now available exclusively at all Amazon outlets: USA – UK – Australia – Canada – France – Germany – Italy – Netherlands – Spain

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