Word Counts By Numbers

I often talk about word count. It’s a big deal for me because I’m wordy. My newest book, Prophecy, is not a wordy book! Yup, that’s right I managed to keep it within industry standard.
According to Wikipedia, these are the classifications are Novel, Novella, Novelette, and short story.

Classification Word count

Novel 40,000 words or over
Novella 17,500 to 39,999 words
Novelette 7,500 to 17,499 words
Short story under 7,500 words

I talk more in-depth about this in Stories Classified

These are the basic classifications of what a book is by word count. Novels are 40,000 +, so what does that mean? Well simply put each genre and subgenre have their own word count limits. This number varies greatly and seems to change the range values.
Professional editors and publishers told me that when in doubt, get it or keep it to mid or bottom of the range. (For the first novel)

Science fiction between 80,000 to 125,000
YA (Young adult) 45,000 to 80,000 (Midrange is best for this genre)
Horror 80,000 to 100,000
Historical fiction/romance 90,000 to 100,000
General Fiction/Literary Fiction/New adult 75,000 to 110,000 words max 70,000 is considered too short for a first-time author/published novel.
Science Fiction and Fantasy 100,000 words to 115,000 (Some say 125,000)
Mystery novels 40,000 to 80,000 words. This is a genre of disagreement on numbers; I’ve seen the recommendation for a thriller or mystery 90,000 to 100,000. I would keep it midrange or close to 80,000 to be safe.

Now I bet someone rushed to a shelf to pull a book or ten down to dispute the numbers. There are always exceptions to the rules (The lucky ones or not a first novel) or they are older books from older standards. Times are tough and the market is flooded with new authors looking to have their books published.

So what about… let’s say, Harry Potter? Some of those young adult books were well over the limit. Yes, they were but not the first one. In addition, JK struggled for years to get it published. Once she gained the footing in the industry and had a book under her belt, she could increase the word count without worrying about the limitations.

The limits are guidelines and they can be ignored. I learned from my own experience that it’s not wise to disregard time-tested advice and limits set by those who will actually be judging your work and deciding if it’s worth their time.

Now back to my new book. It is a TREAT to revise and edit a book without the gloomy cloud of ‘cut, cut and cut’ over my head. I’m not worried about trimming the fat (Hopefully, it’s not there).

It is currently at 73324 and I have room to fix and embellish some scenes without sweating the numbers. For the first time, I have to add words, which is super exciting for me. I still have to finish the filter word edit, but I’ll talk about that another time.

My advice about Word Count
While it’s important to keep your word count within the limits it’s more important to make every word count. After all, we want to keep the reader’s interest.

-Sheryl

Other Word Count related posts

The “word count” down.

Redundantly Redundant Redundancies

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27 thoughts on “Word Counts By Numbers

  1. I’m writing a memoir. I’m not sure if I’ll have it published or not, but I believe it will be as long as the novel length you cited. It will likely have 9 or 10 chapters, most around 3,000 to 5,000 words, but some fewer.

    I’ve written draft versions of most chapters. I doubt I’ll trim off too many words. In fact, I was thinking about adding more content to a couple of them. As for the shorter chapters, they may be below 3,000 words. Is it OK to have some much shorter chapters in a memoir? Or should I rather try to tack them on to others? My memoir is just a collection of stories, though I have stories representing various periods of my life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • To publish or not is a very personal choice especially if the subject matter is personal. I haven’t done a lot of research on memoirs. I imagine they are similar to a novel. I have come across the varied advice that chapters be 1800-2500 words. I have a couple that are closer to 3000 and some say that’s max. There seems so much to consider about structure. I’ll have to do some more research on the subject of chapter word counts. Some say a chapter should be as long as it needs to be. Now I need to go research…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m a novel. I think. 🤔 I’m writing a trilogy in two versions (four copies all together). Right now, Book II is 326,102 words (both versions). But I’m not done with the second version yet. It’s only been 20 months. I just started editing bother while working on Book I. Have One book left after, so I won’t rush it. Definitely a novel. I never count words until I’m done because then I’ll worry too much about that and my story will suck. I worry about pages so I won’t jam my printer. That’s better. I figure if the story is good, someone is going to read it. I have a lot of readers. ☺️ Game of Thrones is well over “Novel” as is Outlander. I think story is more important than word count. Sometimes I think some publishers are nit picky because they have an agenda or have lazy readers that don’t want to commit to new writers with long stories. Some stories can’t have boundaries. That’s just the plain truth. A lot of people won’t get published because reading long books isn’t cool if it’s not Outlander, The Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones. So I write stories for fun until I get to the one book I have publishers will take the time to read—I don’t want them to hurt themselves. 😁

    Liked by 1 person

    • I thought that way too until I got 100% rejections and more than a few editors saying that a first-time author with no previous traditionally published books, I need to bring it down to standard. There are always exceptions but one editor said, if it’s over chances are there’s more filler than you think.
      George RR Martin got his footing selling short stories. His first published book was 89,200 words which are in the range at the time for that genre back in 1977 before that he won numerous awards; expanding his platform that gave him the freedom to write what he wanted and have it picked up for traditional publishing.
      Diana Gabaldon is an exception with Outlander, and Tolkiens first was 95,022 (The Hobbit) which was large back then but acceptable. Fellowship came about 17 years later.
      I’ve set my ‘oversized book’ aside, for now, to build up my platform and hopefully get Prophecy published as it’s more marketable to Literary agents.

      I do genuinely hope you can be an exception, that would be awesome as exceptions to the ‘rules’ give everyone hope.

      Like

  3. Great post! I often think about my word count, too. It’s reassuring to have something quantifiable at the end of the day, and it gives me a daily priority to strive toward. Not to mention that at the end of every day, I post my daily wordcont along with a picture of a coffee cup on my blog. Nothing like the public eye to keep one motivated! 😉 Have fun beefing up your novel, I’m sure it’ll be great! What’s it about?

    Liked by 1 person

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