Lens On: Word Counts
By Brad R Cook
Counting words… but I’m a writer not a mathematician!
As writers we deal in words, but as contests gained in popularity, and shelf space became regulated, the amount of words we're allowed has been set into industry standards.
Below are words count lengths for a variety of projects – but don’t freak out – these are suggested lengths. If your project is longer or shorter, that doesn’t mean your work is bad or wrong, but you may want to consider why your project isn’t falling within the acceptable range.
If your word count is too high, maybe you need to edit, tighten, or remove an unneeded scene. If the word count is too low, consider adding some chapters, or elaborating on a few key moments.
Word Counts by Genre
For adult commercial novels like romance, mysteries, paranormal, or horror – 70,000 to 90,000
Sci-fi / Fantasy / Thrillers (Big World Books) – 90,000 to 120,000
Young Adult – 60,000 to 80,000
Middle Grade – 30,000 to 45,000
Memoir – 70,000 to 90,000
Novella – 17,500 to 40,000
Novelettes – 7,500 to 17,500
Short Story – 2000 to 10,000
Flash Fiction – 500 to 1000
Now that you’ve seen where your novel's at, don’t get twisted into knots.
There is no need to freak out about word counts when you are writing, use them as a guide. Focus instead on the flow and pace of the story. Telling a great story is more important than the word count, let an agent, editor, or publisher tell you that you need more words or less. Unless you are submitting to a contest, most have a word limit, and you will want to come under that number. At that point, every word becomes important and, and conjunctions become good friends.
If you want to know more about word counts, there are a number of places you can go. I consulted, Wikipedia, New Leaf Literary’s Tumblr page, a number of publishers websites, and Writers Digest.
May I suggest Chuck Sambuchino’s Writers Digest article – WORD COUNT FOR NOVELS AND CHILDREN’S BOOKS: THE DEFINITIVE POST http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/word-count-for-novels-and-childrens-books-the-definitive-post
I try not to worry, and only calculate the word count at the end of the first draft. Except when writing short stories for contests – I stress over every word and phrase to whittle the story to within the accepted limit. Do you worry about word counts? Let us know in the comment section.
Brad R. Cook is a historical fantasy author and President of St. Louis Writers Guild. Please visit www.bradrcook.com , follow me on Twitter @bradrcook https://twitter.com/bradrcook , or my tumblr page Thoughts from Midnight http://bradrcook.tumblr.com/
St. Louis Reflections http://www.stlbooks.com/B009271-1211-51/Review.aspx