A Word Count Guide for 18 Book Genres Memoirs ChildrenBookan

How many words in a novel? is a question many writers ask.

My memoir is 270,000 words long.I heard these words during a breakout session I led at a local writers conference.

An editor friend of mine, Shayla Eaton with Curiouser Editing, was sitting in on the breakout. We gave each other knowing glances, and because I didnt want to break this poor memoirists literary heart, I nodded at Shayla to take the lead.Soon after I heard someone mention the words in a novel, I held my breathe and let the moment pass.

As nicely but as directly as she could, she explained to the memoirist that a 270,000-word memoir was excessive. Even if she self-publishes, the cost per copy would be high, and few readers would slog through such a tome particularly for someone whos not famous.

And no agents orpublisherswould even look past that number.

The prose could be as fleet-footed as Fitzgeralds. The life story could be as compelling as Lincolns. The platform could be as broad as Oprahs. But no agent would get to know that because theyd see Memoir: 270,000 words and hit delete before reading any further.

So, what word count should a memoir be?

For that matter, how long should any book be? How many words are in a typical novel? Whats the ideal book word count?

If youre writing yourfirst novelor any book, youre probably asking these questions.

The short answer is: long enough to tell the story but short enough to consistently hold the readers interest.

Word count matters because every book, regardless of genre, has an inherent contract with the reader. But that contract is dependent upon the books genre.

For instance, when a reader picks up a thriller, they have certain expectations of what theyre about to read. That includes scenes like the hero at the mercy of the villain, but it also includes book length. Because thrillers are about pulse-pounding action and maybe somecharacter development(especially if its part of a series), the word count isnt massive. Thrillers tend to be 70,000 to 90,000 words.

If youre not a thriller author, I wont keep you in suspense. At the end of this article, youre going to find a guide to suggested word count length for most every popular genre.

My point is thatyour genre will likely dictate your word count.There are exceptions, likeYA books that exceed 250,000 words, but those tend to be outliers, and first-time authors rarely, if ever, get to be an outlier.

Additionally, knowing your word count before you start writing can help you better plan your narrative arc as well as your writing schedule.

And whats the average length of other types of books?

Before diving into the specifics of genre-based word counts, lets look at the broader picture of average book length.

For most publishers, a book is novel-length when its between 50,000 and 110,000 words.

At a writers conference I recently attended, publishing veteran Jane Friedman said 80,000 words is good for most fiction, below 60,000 isnt novel length territory, and above 120,000 is likely too much.

Writers Digestrecommends 80,000 to 89,999 words as a 100% safe range for literary, mainstream, womens, romance, mystery, suspense, thriller and horror. Thats approximately 300 pages of double-spaced type.

In Outlining Your Book in 3 Easy Steps, editor Shawn Coyne says, The average novel today is about 90,000 words. Big, epic stories get anywhere from 120,000 to 200,000 words. But, he also mentions that The Wizard of Ozwas 40,000 words.The Old Man and the Seawas about 25 to 30,000 words, tops.

Coyne uses the Nanowrimo word-count length of 50,000 words for his examples, calling 50,000 words a good foundation to build upon.

So what does that mean for you, author?

If youre working on a novel-length book, aim for 50,000 words at the very least but its better to aim for 90,000. Editorial trimming is inevitable.

However, youll also want to take your genre into account.

The following are average word-count ranges by genre.

For a great discussion on the fundamentals of fiction, and how to write a great story,check out this podcast interview.

All of these are average book word count ranges and should not be taken as the definitive word count you must reach in your book. We all know of outliers within each genre that have been published well under, or well over, these word counts.

Use these numbers as a baseline for your writing goals.

Know what readers expect in terms of your genres word count (even if the reader isnt aware of their expectations when it comes to how long a book is).

The Write Life has teamed up with Self-Publishing School to create this presentation, How to Write & Publish Your Book in 90 Days. In it, youll learn how to finish your book in just 30 minutes per day.To sign up for this free training, click here.

This is another common question, and for most writers it should be easy to answer by using a word count feature in your writing tool.

If youre writing in Microsoft Word,word count is an option under Tools. Prefer something different? Heres how to findword count in Google Docs. You can also track word count in Scrivener.

The average single-spaced document typed in 12-point font contains about500 words per page, but that can vary pretty drastically depending on your formatting.

So, if you have an hour to write and aim to get down 300 words, you might wonder, how many pages is 300 words and the answer is less than one! Doable, right?

If youre thinking bigger and wondering, for example, how many pages is 50,000 words, simply divide your target word count (50,000) by 500 (since thats the average words per page). Your answer here is 100 pages.

Dont let those commas instill fear. Fifty thousand words isnt that much divided into five days a week for a year. Thats only 193 words per writing day!

This is an updated version of a story that was previously published. We update our posts as often as possible to ensure theyre useful for our readers.

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