Word Count 101: Novel? Novella? Novelette?

Many writers stress about word count while they are creating a book. My advice is actually not to worry about it during the first draft—just be true to your story and characters. Then, during the editing process, become the crazed axe murderer—okay, maybe more of a surgeon. But regardless, you need to be brutal.

In general, the count for most novels should fall between 80,000-100,000 words for almost any genre. Any debut novel over 100,000 words risks rejection from agents and publishers.  But again, don’t worry about this until you get there.  An interesting tidbit: the average length for all books on Amazon is 64,000 words.

One Step at a Time

Now, depending on the font you use, the average word count on a page is about 300 words.  Writing takes consistency, so instead of getting overwhelmed, celebrate the small things.

Write 300 words, you have a page.
Write 3000 words, you have a chapter.
Write 16 chapters, you have a book.

General Word Count Lengths

What category does your manuscript fall into?  Here is a general guideline:

Micro-Fiction: Up to 100 words

Flash Fiction: 100-500 words

Short Story:  1,000-8,000 words

Novelette: 7,500-20,000

Novella: 20,000-40,000 words

Novel:  40,000-110,000 (see genre notes below)

Epic: 110,000+

The novel isn’t cut and dry. Each genre has its own average. For example, Science Fiction tends to be longer than a Western, and so on.

Book Type Cloud


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Book Lengths for Different Genres

Picture Books: 500-700 words (with an average length of 32 pages).

Middle Grade: 20,000-55,000

Upper Middle Grade:  40,000-60,000

Young Adult: 55,000-70,000

Mature Young Adult: 60,000-90,000
Note: The longer length must be warranted by the content.  It is best the keep novels in the 70,000-80,000 length.

New Adult: 70,000-100,000

Adult Fiction: 80,000-120,000

Memoir: 80,000-90,000

Western:  50,000-80,000

Sci-Fi and Fantasy:  100,000-115,000
This is due to the longer descriptions or world building. These books are generally 20,000 to 50,000 words longer than realistic novels.  Despite the accepted increase in length, they must be well-edited.

Women’s Fiction: 75,000-110,000
Some are longer than this, but if you are a first-time novelist, shoot for this range; otherwise, you risk the slush pile.

Storm and Solace: A Beauty & the Beast Retelling

Clocking in at 64,000 words in this Beauty & The Beast role-swapping mashup, Saxa is stripped of her powers and cursed by her two sisters. She has twelve weeks to change her ways or lose everything—including her life.

Brandr, shipwrecked after a terrible storm, is swept into the world of gods and goddesses. When he trades his life for his brother’s, he sentences himself to a world he knows nothing about.

When their paths collide, nothing is as it seems. Who will survive this game of immortals?

Word Counts for Famous Books

Brave New World: 64,531 words

City of Bones: 130,949 words

Divergent: 105,143

The Fellowship of the Ring: 187,790 words

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone:  77,325 words

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: 198,227 words

The Hobbit: 95,356 words

The Hunger Games: 99,750

Lord of the Flies: 62,481 words

Madame Bovary: 117,963 words

Gone with the Wind: 418,053 words

Sense and Sensibility: 126,194 words

Twilight: 118,975 words

Ulysses: 262,869 words

War and Peace: 544,406 words (It really is one of the longest books ever!)

A Note on the Counts

Word counts may vary slightly because some include the foreword in the overall number. I used the Accelerated Reader site to look up all of the young adult titles.  It is super handy and FREE if you need to look something up.

Just click “teacher” or “librarian” so you can see all of the stats.  http://www.arbookfind.com/

No matter what you are writing, enjoy the process. Even if it’s only a haiku.

Fleeting Glance Haiku by Robin Woods

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Word Count

15 responses to “Word Count 101: Novel? Novella? Novelette?”

  1. I can’t keep up either. Ha. I think “Upper Young Adult” is now “Mature Young Adult”–darker themes, but without graphic sex or violence that may appear in New Adult or Adult.

  2. Great Post. I loved the abundance of information about all of the genres. I especially liked the addition of famous books’ word count!

  3. If they had internet when I was in high school I probably would have copy and pasted this.

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