Writing like a Boss

From the desk of Samantha R. Uhrig

How Many Words Make a Novel?

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!

How to lengthen your novel using J.K. Rowling’s outline method

How to shorten your novel in 3 steps

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?


4 responses to “How Many Words Make a Novel?”

  1. Thanks so much for the mention, Sam! Great article!

    1. Sam – thewriter (author)

      No problem! I loved those posts you wrote. 🙂 Thanks for the feedback!

  2. Aynsley

    Hey, Sam! Great post! I’m still a little worried about my plot, but I’m sure it’ll be fine in the end. I need to work on connecting everything, and having a main theme if that makes since. I don’t really have a plot right now, but I think I’ll have one soon, so that’ll be great! Anyway, great posts lately! Bye!

    1. Sam – thewriter (author)

      Hey, Aynsley! I get what you mean about plot; I know what goes into it, but actually writing it becomes another problem, you know? But I’m sure you’ll figure it out! 🙂 Thanks for commenting!