Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Word Count

Jennifer debates the length of her novel…

I know there are standard word counts for different types of books—novellas, novels, etc. But is there a word count that you feel comfortable writing?

My first book was almost 90,000 when I was finished. There was a certain inspiration that kept the words flowing and I had no trouble reaching it. It could be that since it was my first book, I didn’t edit out enough. Still, I love that word count.

The rest of my books have been in the 65,000-75,000 range and I had a much more difficult time getting there. Part of me feels like it’s too short; that I’ve sped through things that I should have taken more time with. But at the same time, the stories were complete.

I know some editors shy away from the longer word counts, especially from first-time authors. My current editor is open to all word counts, although she’s specifically looking for novellas.

While my word counts have been shrinking to the 65,000 range, I can’t imagine writing a novella—not enough detail or time to develop the characters or the story, at least in my opinion. But I have writer friends who love it.

So, what do you think?


  1. I think short story writers are amazing. The shorter the story, the more challenging the art.

  2. I agree with you, Ana. I don't think I could do it.

  3. I never thought about it before but now I've noticed the same thing.

    I wrote four books in a series (all currently unpublished) and their word counts ranged from 95,000 - 120,000! These stories just had so much to them and they were essentially the first story ideas I ever received.

    But my work now seems to be shorter. Hurricane Crimes, my first published story, was around 12,000 words. My next one to be published this summer is about 27,000 words. I am working on another story now and aiming for 65,000 words.

    It's odd, but I am also noticing how it is harder to get my other stories as long as those in my series. Maybe it's just that my stories now aren't as complex or my series (and your book) stole all of our writing juice for big word counts. Who knows?

  4. "Stole all of our writing juice"--LOL! I know in my case, Chrys, it really depends on the story. But I have a sneaking suspicion that my first word count was probably also due to editing (or a lack of).

  5. I tend to write LONG, although I have published two flash fiction stories--I can't seem to end up somewhere in between 1,000 and 5,000! The novel I'm working on is a revision of a 50,000 word draft done during NaNoWriMo, and I'm not sure how much I'm going to be able to fill it out! I really, really hate word counts--to me a story should be as long as it has to be! But that's not real life in publishing, unfortunately!

  6. I always thought I would be strictly a 'full-length' novel writer. At TWRP, full-length is anything 65,000 and up. Sometimes, it's hard for me to get to that count and I wind up adding things I'm only going to take out later.

    I've discovered in the past couple of years that I actually do enjoy writing shorter novellas and I've had some success with them. Out of the last five books I've sold, three have been novellas. For me, I like being able to write until I think the story is complete, not just to get to a certain word count. If the story becomes longer. Great. If it stays short. That's fine too.

  7. My books are vary between 71,000 and 88,000 words, averaging out about 77,000. I generally aim for between 70 and 80K - but can delete about 5K on the first big edit.
    I used to write a lot of short stories ie. about 3-5,000, but I'm out of the habit now! Also a novella demands a much shorter plot than the stories I prefer to write these days.

  8. Elaine, I agree that the story should determine the word count. It's very obvious when the author tries to fill in.

    Debra, I think it's great you've been able to write novellas and enjoy doing it. Again, I agree with your philosophy.

    Paula, there's something in me that wants to write longer, but sometimes I just can't get the story there.