Questions just about every writer has asked him- or herself: Just how many words does it take to make a novel? Is there a certain word-count? And how do I know if my novel is too short/long?
If you are that writer, here is a quick, simplistic post for you, based entirely on the research I’ve been doing lately. (Yes, I research word-counts. I swear I’m this cool in real life.)
There is a specific word-count for novels indeed! Here are overall word-count “standards.”
Flash fiction: 100 – 1,500 words
Short story: 1,500 – 30,000 words
Novella: 20,000 – 50,000 words
Novel: 50,000+ words
Yes, it’s that simple.
And here are word-counts for some common genres: [source]
Mainstream Romance: 70,000–100,000 words
Subgenre Romance: 40,000–100,000 words
Science Fiction / Fantasy: 90,000–120,000 (and sometimes 150,000) words
Historical Fiction: 80,000–100,000
Thrillers / Horror / Mysteries / Crime: 70,000–90,000 words
Young Adult: 50,000–80,000
But now we’re left with a question – what is the standard word-count for novels? Is 50K typical? How many pages is 50K?
To answer the latter question – the average words per page is 300. So, according to my handy-dandy calculator: a novel with 50,000 words is likely to be around 116 pages long.
That isn’t a very big book. According to my previously mentioned research, most of today’s novels tend to be at least double that, at a whopping 100K. Goodness, that’s a whole lotta words!
You may be picturing that as a fat, monstrous book. But (depending on the formatting, of course) it’s really not. However, this isn’t to say you should do 100K; in fact, there are tons of successful novels that fall very short of that.
To put into perspective how big your novel might be in final print, I’ve rounded up the WCs of popular bestsellers (in order of date published). You probably have at least one of these on your shelf, so you can compare and contrast with your own novel to get an idea of just how many words you want it to be.
Please remember that several sources said different word-counts for each of these books, which is why I put “about” in there so much.
A very super important note: do not, I repeat, do not feel bad about your novel’s WC. When I started this research, I made the mistake of harshly comparing my novel to others, and with a bruised motivation I lost several days of writing. So please, I beg of you – don’t be cruel to yourself.
“Pride and Prejudice” – Jane Austen
Words: about 122,000 words.
Pages: N/A. (There are too many different versions of this book to list this fact!)
“The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” – C.S. Lewis
Words: about 36,363 words. (See? We don’t need huge word-counts for a good novel!)
Pages (paperback): about 208 pages.
“A Wrinkle in Time” – Madeline L’Engle
Words: about 56,000 words.
Pages (paperback): about 256 pages.
“Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” – J.K. Rowling
Words: about 77,500 words.
Pages (U.S. edition): about 368 pages.
“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” – J.K. Rowling
Words: about 257,000 words. (No wonder it took me 2 months to read this one.)
Pages (U.S. edition): about 870 pages.
“The Book Thief” – Markus Zusak
Words: about 144,000 words.
Pages (paperback): about 576 pages.
“The Hunger Games” – Suzanne Collins
Words: about 99,750 words.
Pages (paperback): about 374 pages.
“Divergent” – Veronica Roth
Words: about 105,000 words.
Pages (first edition): 487 pages.
If your novel is too short, it might be a sign of underdeveloped plot. If it’s too long, you may have useless filler. So the length of your novel is an important subject, but again: don’t fret over it, okay?
If you need to shorten or lengthen your novel, there are some good articles at tauricox.com that may help!
Let’s talk! How many words is your novel, or how many words would you like it to be? Are you happy with it, or do you want to change it?