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
Novella: 20,000-40,000 words
Novel: 40,000-110,000 (see genre notes below)
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 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
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.
Word Counts for Famous Books
Brave New World: 64,531 words
City of Bones: 130,949 words
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.
More Free Resources for Writers
Other Words for Whisper and Went Blog Post and printable PDF for personal use.
Writing: 8 or Eight? Rules of Using Numerals in Text
Books by Robin Woods