IN THE BOOK WRITERS’ CRITIQUE GROUP I LEAD, we recently discussed the differences between works of narrative fiction. While word count is not the only distinguishing feature, it’s certainly the easiest to grasp. Perhaps you’re wondering, “How long should a novel be?”
As a professional writing coach, I’m asked about book lengths quite often. That’s why I compiled this quick guide to word count—and a few distinguishing features of long fiction forms, as well.
Word counts for novels, novellas, and novelettes
We call all of the above—novels, novellas, and novelettes—book-length fiction. But they actually vary wildly in length.There are typically other differences in these forms, as well.
Novelettes: Sometimes a term that is used derogatorally. The word count for a novelette is between 7,500 and17,000. In addition to their short length, novelettes are characterized by their sentimental style and, often, on a romantic focus.
Novellas: Not to be confused with telenovelas, a term given to dramatic, primarily Latin American, television series. Novellas have an approximate word count between 17,000 and 40,000. A novella will typically have fewer (if any) subplots than a novel. It will also generally take place in a shorter, more contained time frame and a single location.
Novels: Starting at 40,000 words (except for children’s fiction), with no cap other than what agents, editors, and readers will accept. Given its length, a novel has room for a writer to develop subplots, use multiple points of view, and explore multiple locations—and even multiple periods in time. (Think, time travel novels or family sagas.)
Word counts for novels by genre
Middle Grade: 25,000 – 50,000
Young Adult: 45,000 – 100,000
Fantasy: 50,000 – 150,000
Sci-fi: 50,000 – 150,000.
Romance: 50,000 – 90,000.
Mystery: 40,000 – 80,000.
Horror: 40,000 – 80,000.
Dystopian: 60,000 – 120,000
Thriller: 90,000 – 120,000
I hope this quick look at word counts and genres helps as you prepare to write your novel. You might also like this article: “How to Write a Novel.” It’s an exciting journey—and I wish you all the best as you get underway!
How long should your novel be? A chat with a top novel writing coach can help you navigate the word-count waters!
As a top novel writing coach, I help book writers decide how long their novel—or novella, or novelette—should be. We can address practical questions like this and much more in a no-cost 30-minute phone chat. Schedule a free initial consultation with me, now. And read THE WRITER mag article “Should I Hire a Writing Coach,” too!