Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Word Counts – How Long Should This Be?

There are no hard and fast rules to word counts. The truth is that a story is as long as it needs to be or in other words as long as it takes to tell the story. But that doesn’t help when you are trying to work out how long your story should be. So sometimes it is good to basic guidelines.

The basic terms are (taken from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Nebula Award category guidelines) –

·         Short Stories – under 7,500 words

·         Novelettes – 7,500 to 17,500 words

·         Novellas – 17,500 to 40,000 words

·         Novels 40,000 words plus

However in practical terms very few novels are as short as 40000 words, with a couple of notable exceptions for example Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut is 49,000 words, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is 46,000 words and The Lion, The Witch and Wardrobe is 36,000 words. And at the other extreme very few novels hit the other extreme 400,000 plus words. Notable exceptions here are Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell at 418,000 words, The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkein at 455,000 and War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy at 587,000 words.

The truth is that most novels falls somewhere between 40,000 and 400,000 words – but that is a large gap between the two. And the gap between the low and high word count really depends on what you what you are writing, some stories just take more words than others, especially if you are building a new world in your story.

The following is rough breakdown by genre –

·         Middle grade fiction – 25,000 to 40,000 words

·         Young adult fiction – 45,000 to 80,000 words (although young adult fantasy can rise to 120,000 words)

·         Literary fiction – 65,000 to 120,000 words

·         Mysteries – 75,000 to 100,000 words

·         Crime – 80,000 to 100,000

·         Horror – 80,000 to 100,000 words

·         Mainstream – 80,000 to 100,000 words

·         Thrillers – 80,000 to 100,000 words

·         Westerns – 80,000 to 100,000 words

·         Paranormal romance – 85,000 to 100,000 words

·         Romance – 85,000 to 100,000 words

·         Science fiction and fantasy – 90,000 to 200,000 words (although this breaks up into many subcategories with urban fantasy at the shorter end – 90,000 to 100,000 and epic fantasy at the longer end – 120,000 to 200,000 words)

The other thing to note is that books tend to get longer in a series. The main reason for this is that once an editor and reader from that matter, enjoys a book/trust the author, they are willing to read something longer. See the examples show below:

·         Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling

o   Philosopher’s Stone – 77,325

o   Chamber of Secrets – 84,799

o   Prisoner of Azkaban – 106,821

o   Goblet of Fire – 190,858

o   Order of the Phoenix – 257,154

o   Half Blood Prince – 169,441

o   Deathly Hallows – 198,227

·         Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins

o   The Hunger Games – 99,750

o   Catching Fire – 101,564

o   Mockingjay – 100,269

·         Song of Ice and Fire Series by George R. R. Martin

o   A Game of Thrones – 292,727

o   A Clash of Kings – 318,903

o   A Storm of Swords – 414,604

o   A Feast of Crows – 295,032

o   A Dance with Dragons – 414,788

However the real word to word counts is as mentioned in the first few lines. There are no hard and fast rules to word counts but a story is as long as it takes to tell it (and within the submission guidelines to whoever you submit the story to).


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