Author Topic: Word Count: What's the longest and the shortest you'll go with your novels?  (Read 885 times)  

Online kw3000

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A few questions for you...please answer as a writer, not a reader...

1. Do you have a sweet spot when it comes to word count for your books? Do you have an average length that you always try to shoot for?

2. What's the longest word count you'd attempt for the genre you write in (and what is that genre?)?

3. What's the shortest word count you'd attempt for the genre you write in?

4. Do you try to get your word count to match genre expectations on the part of readers, or do you tend to buck convention, or are you somewhere in the middle?

I appreciate your answers. I like hearing about how others approach things, I learn a lot from it. So, thanks.  8)

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Offline Not Lu

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The author I do marketing for has a simple rule about word count. Use as many words as it takes to tell the story, the whole story, and nothing but the story. He writes in epic fantasy so he's got a wide range to work with though.

Offline SueSeabury

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A few questions for you...please answer as a writer, not a reader...

1. Do you have a sweet spot when it comes to word count for your books? Do you have an average length that you always try to shoot for?
I don't. I just write and see how things turn out.

2. What's the longest word count you'd attempt for the genre you write in (and what is that genre?)?
I don't aim for long, but my magnum opus right now is about 110k. I don't ever plan to write anything that long again.

3. What's the shortest word count you'd attempt for the genre you write in?
Anything under 40k isn't really a novel IMO.

4. Do you try to get your word count to match genre expectations on the part of readers, or do you tend to buck convention, or are you somewhere in the middle?
My first books happened to be right length. Dumb luck. I am more conscious of length matching expectations now than I ever was before.


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Online RRodriguez

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My minimum word-count is 60k. Any shorter than that and I feel like I'm skimping on world-building and fleshing out my characters. After that, I ideally shoot for around 80k once I go through my edits, but I don't force it. I've yet to really go above and beyond that too much, so I can't say what my max is, but I think if I started to near 150k I might start to examine if the book has too much extra fluff, or enough story that should be separated into two. But I'm not really sure, again, I've yet to hit that high so it's difficult to say how I'd feel once I got there.
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Offline Ryan W. Mueller

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My published books range from 105,000 words to 167,000 words. The longest I've written is a little over 170,000. The shortest is about 93,000 (for adult audiences). In the past, I wrote a 65,000 word middle grade fantasy, but you're expected to write shorter for that audience.

I'm a firm believer in the idea that the story takes as many words as it needs. My sweet spot more recently seems to be around 100,000, but I don't hold myself to that.

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Offline Harvey Click

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If it's shorter than 70k I'll call it a novella. I don't see any upper limit, so far as all the words are necessary.

Harvey Click

Offline Jim Johnson

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1. Do you have a sweet spot when it comes to word count for your books? Do you have an average length that you always try to shoot for?

Depends on whether I'm writing novels or novellas. My novellas are 25-40k or thereabouts. Novels are generally 70-110k.

2. What's the longest word count you'd attempt for the genre you write in (and what is that genre?)?

Probably not more than 100k or so, no matter the genre.

3. What's the shortest word count you'd attempt for the genre you write in?

See 1. And short stories would be 3,000-10,000 words or so.

4. Do you try to get your word count to match genre expectations on the part of readers, or do you tend to buck convention, or are you somewhere in the middle?

I aim for a length (short story, novella, or novel) and use the guidelines listed above for word count. I don't care about genre expectations--the story will be as long as it needs to be to tell the story.

Offline katherinef

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My stories are always as long as they should be. My shortest novels are about 40k. I wouldn't write anything over 80k because that would be full of useless filler. I don't like long books.
De gustibus non est disputandum.

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Online P.J. Post

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1. Do you have a sweet spot when it comes to word count for your books? Do you have an average length that you always try to shoot for?

No, I write until the story is over, (this part of it anyway). I never add filler or irrelevant side plots.

2. What's the longest word count you'd attempt for the genre you write in (and what is that genre?)?

I don't have preconceived notions about length. See answer #1. I mainly write YA+ science fiction, post-apoc and futurism/cyberpunk. But tortuously lengthy door-stoppers are usually self-indulgent beyond belief, (see disclaimer below), and, as such, risky. Besides, if you have 250k worth of story, publish it in three books - there's no up side not to. And while I agree the story needs to be as long it needs to be, how we present that story as content is a completely separate discussion.

3. What's the shortest word count you'd attempt for the genre you write in?

40k is, by generally accepted definition (Hugo and Nebula awards, for example), the minimum length for a novel. As word counts decrease, we run into weird promotional and pricing conundrums, so while I have no problem writing a 20k novella, so far, my novels have fallen between 45-65k, without really thinking about it.

4. Do you try to get your word count to match genre expectations on the part of readers, or do you tend to buck convention, or are you somewhere in the middle?

See answer #1. I write to entertain my readers, for however long that takes. But...I'd rather give them shorter, tighter stories more frequently, than pointlessly bloated novels less frequently. Epic fantasy is the only genre I know of where fans will wade through 40 pages of the history of copper smelting and the economic ramifications on the, now culturally extinct and therefore irrelevant, Phresqanjo People of the Lower Valleys, you know, before the Crimson Sea filled the Lower Valleys and created the great City-State Port of Kresh, that now owns and operates the same ancient copper mine where smelting was discovered so long ago - you know, just listen to how long ago it was...
« Last Edit: February 09, 2018, 11:28:27 AM by P.J. Post »

Offline hunterone

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A few questions for you...please answer as a writer, not a reader...

1. Do you have a sweet spot when it comes to word count for your books? Do you have an average length that you always try to shoot for?

2. What's the longest word count you'd attempt for the genre you write in (and what is that genre?)?

3. What's the shortest word count you'd attempt for the genre you write in?

4. Do you try to get your word count to match genre expectations on the part of readers, or do you tend to buck convention, or are you somewhere in the middle?

I appreciate your answers. I like hearing about how others approach things, I learn a lot from it. So, thanks.  8)

55k shortest. 70k longest ( I have no need to go above that).

Offline Sam Kates

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Re: Word Count: What's the longest and the shortest you'll go with your novels?
« Reply #10 on: February 09, 2018, 11:30:12 AM »
Shortest 42k; longest 106k. But whatever it takes to tell the tale.
    
sam kates

Offline ellenoc

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Re: Word Count: What's the longest and the shortest you'll go with your novels?
« Reply #11 on: February 09, 2018, 11:37:21 AM »
Historical romance. Shortest 53,000; longest 138,000. I'm another believer in you write what the story requires, but my readers have let me know they vastly prefer longer stories so I will think twice about spending time on shorter stuff in the future.

Online Lorri Moulton

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Re: Word Count: What's the longest and the shortest you'll go with your novels?
« Reply #12 on: February 09, 2018, 12:10:39 PM »
My shortest fiction is 4,850 words.  The longest has over 81k and I expect to write four more books in this serialized story.

It really depends on what you have to say.  Will it take a lot of dialogue, plot twists, supporting characters and description?  Almost an entire chapter describes the layout of the mansion in my latest book. :)

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Offline Norman Steele Taylor

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Re: Word Count: What's the longest and the shortest you'll go with your novels?
« Reply #13 on: February 09, 2018, 12:44:41 PM »
While it appears 200 pages to 300 pages is the 'industry average' for most genres, PAGE MINIMUM really boils down to the STORY you're trying to tell. If you have lots of plot twists and cover particularly complicated characters, it's probably a good idea to invest in a lot more pages to develop all elements of your story properly.


Offline GeneDoucette

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Re: Word Count: What's the longest and the shortest you'll go with your novels?
« Reply #14 on: February 09, 2018, 01:02:48 PM »
My sci-fi stories all end up being between 103,000 and 113,000. My fantasy books all end up begin between 85,000 and 105,000.

I don't really know what genre conventions are for what I write, and I couldn't tell you why the fantasy books end up shorter than the sci-fi, although voice might be a factor: I'm writing in first person in fantasy, and third in sci-fi.

Online LadyG

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Re: Word Count: What's the longest and the shortest you'll go with your novels?
« Reply #15 on: February 09, 2018, 02:31:06 PM »
My books are all novellas, averaging about 40K words each. That seems to fit expectations pretty well with my humor books but is a bit short for the romance ones. I'm really trying to write longer, but that 40K line is hard for me to push past.

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Offline hopecartercan

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Re: Word Count: What's the longest and the shortest you'll go with your novels?
« Reply #16 on: February 09, 2018, 02:46:06 PM »
THIS
My books are all novellas, averaging about 40K words each. That seems to fit expectations pretty well with my humor books but is a bit short for the romance ones. I'm really trying to write longer, but that 40K line is hard for me to push past.


Online LilyBLily

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Re: Word Count: What's the longest and the shortest you'll go with your novels?
« Reply #17 on: February 09, 2018, 02:52:41 PM »
I write 50k romances and 100k women's fiction. Any other genre I dabble in is somewhere in between. I'm about to write a novella I hope won't be much more than 15-20k.

Some stories just naturally spin out to 100k, while others want to be over by 50k. If a story is running short I look for places to beef it up. Not pad it, but add more descriptive content.

Online C. Gold

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Re: Word Count: What's the longest and the shortest you'll go with your novels?
« Reply #18 on: February 09, 2018, 03:04:07 PM »
The first book (fantasy) I tried writing was 60k and I'd just gotten past act 1.  :o It kept trying to push me into epic fantasy with multiple POVs and plots and goings on so when I ran into an issue with one of the main characters, I abandoned it, not ready to tackle epic fantasy tomes as my book 1, lol.

I tackled another fantasy story which was going to be a smaller, two POV story that wouldn't turn epic tome-like and would focus on a simple plot. I figured that would make a solid book 1 and probably be around 60k. Well, it seems I can't help myself. The plot is pretty action packed and streamlined and yet went to 102k words. I guess it's a good think I'm writing fantasy!

I have written short stories of 6700 words long too. So I can write short and concise. But when I'm delving into world building and character development, I enjoy writing longer novels. I don't really worry about word count as long as the pacing of the story feels good and I've developed my characters and world to my satisfaction.

Offline LovingLife139

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Re: Word Count: What's the longest and the shortest you'll go with your novels?
« Reply #19 on: February 09, 2018, 04:17:47 PM »
1. Do you have a sweet spot when it comes to word count for your books? Do you have an average length that you always try to shoot for?

No, I write the story that needs to be told regardless of word count. I'd have to say my average is somewhere between 100-120K, but I don't shoot for it and that's over two separate genres.

2. What's the longest word count you'd attempt for the genre you write in (and what is that genre?)?


I'd repeat my answer to #1, but I would have to say that if my books were to inch closer to 300K I would try to tone it down somehow. I don't have the patience for fluff so I don't write it, however; trimming the content would be quite hard to do and likely counterproductive.

3. What's the shortest word count you'd attempt for the genre you write in?

I write in a few genres. I would never publish something below 40K regardless. My shortest book is a dystopian thriller and sits around 49K. My shortest book in fantasy is 89K, and that's because it's just an introduction of sorts. The rest of the books in the series are far longer because they have to be (military/epic fantasy tends to get complex).

4. Do you try to get your word count to match genre expectations on the part of readers, or do you tend to buck convention, or are you somewhere in the middle?

No. I don't write conventionally. I don't worry about expectations of the genre.

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Offline SteveHarrison

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Re: Word Count: What's the longest and the shortest you'll go with your novels?
« Reply #20 on: February 09, 2018, 04:37:35 PM »
I'll let the story dictate the length, so I don't worry too much about word count when I start. My published SF novel came in at 104,00 words and my completed YA novel is 65,000, and both felt like the right length. I'm writing a crime thriller at the moment and I expect it to be around 80,000 words - maybe 90k if the new sub-plot I'm weaving in works out.

Offline Jack Krenneck

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Re: Word Count: What's the longest and the shortest you'll go with your novels?
« Reply #21 on: February 09, 2018, 05:01:40 PM »
Answering as a writer, I aim to write what I can best market to readers.

Step one in this process is not to worry about word counts. Readers don't have a clue how big (or small) a 70,000 word manuscript is. They judge a book's size by its page count. For epic fantasy, 200 pages is a minimum. There are 1 or 2 successful outliers who do less than that (one is a regular poster here). Most are 200 plus.

Is there an advantage in going higher than 200? Maybe, but there are disadvantages. Books take longer to write and the release schedule is slower. This kills momentum on Amazon. So, I think the sweet spot is 200 pages, and all my novels come in within a few pages of that.


Offline AmesburyArcher

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Re: Word Count: What's the longest and the shortest you'll go with your novels?
« Reply #22 on: February 09, 2018, 11:47:18 PM »
It depends. My big historical fiction Wars of the Roses novels are 120,000-135,000 each, as are my Stonehenge  novels (now in 1 volume.) However, I am doing a series about rather obscure medieval  women of note, and there just isn't a lot of historical data on these ladies. As I don't like to invent all that much when dealing with real figures, these books are much shorter--45, 000-82,000 words. I also have written a novella of about 32,000, a YA of 60,000, a fantasy romance of 50,000 and am working on a novella which will be approx 20,000.
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Offline Douglas Milewski

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Re: Word Count: What's the longest and the shortest you'll go with your novels?
« Reply #23 on: February 10, 2018, 12:28:44 AM »
60k is about my minimum, but I've never gone quite that low. I did do one novella, and maybe I'll do something else short in the future.


For my WIP, I'm aiming at 240k epic fantasy broken into three books, because it's so long. I'm using a Japanese style epic arc (as seen in anime and JRPGs), which is proving far more fun than I had expected. Japanese style epic fantasies have far more light-heartedness to them than western epics. I started in June, writing 20k a month. Almost there, but the holidays threw me for a whirl.

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Re: Word Count: What's the longest and the shortest you'll go with your novels?
« Reply #24 on: February 10, 2018, 01:47:53 AM »
My books are as long as they need to be. My longest is 110,000 words and my shortest about 35,000.


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