How to know if your book is the right length

The words come and the words go, but where do we stop, I don’t know.


Some days I’m ready to stop after one paragraph. Other days I think the story will be a saga the likes of War and Peace. Not! But truth be told, I just hope to write something somewhere in the middle. A story that a few people, other than my family, will enjoy reading.


Then there is the question, how long or short is enough?

Apparently, it depends on the genre. I’ve written about this before, but it seems I’ve more to learn.

This article Word Count for Novels and Children’s Books: The Definitive Post  By  breaks it down by genre.

Like with most “rules,” there are exceptions. However, if you’re the least bit like me, you like to have a general goal to shoot for.

So here’s a cheat sheet for you!

  • Literary novel: 80,000-90,000 good average.
  • Memoir: Same as Literary Novel.
  • Short Stories: 1,000-25,000
  • Novellas: 25,000 – 55,000 words, over 55k you’re so close you might as well expand it into a novel.
  • Literary saga: 100,000-110,000 (over that and you might want to consider a series.)
  • Science fiction and fantasy: 90,000-100,000 on average. However, some can go to 115,000. Readers expect this genre to be lengthy.
  • Westerns: 50,000-80,000 is the range for this genre, so aim for the middle.
  • Middle grade is a bit tricky. Depending on age and subject matter, shoot for 20,000– 55,000. Younger kids = lower word count. Older teens = higher word count.
  • Young Adult (YA) genre, according to Chuck gives the writer more flexibility. Somewhere in the 55,000-70,000 range is a safe bet.  Science fiction or fantasy can go a bit longer.
  • Children’s Picture Books: Standard is 32 pages and no more than 500 words.

More reading on word count:

LitRejections Word Count Genre Guidelines 

What is the Ideal Word Count for a Novel? by CG Blake

Ask The Agent: Your Novel Word Count Guide and More! 


19 thoughts on “How to know if your book is the right length

  1. Really interesting. I checked the word count in a number of mystery books before I started, but once I got going, I more or less ignored it. Somehow the last three books have been between 70K and 80K and I don’t know how that happened!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. So 70-90k seems to be thr right length for everything adult. Up from 55k when I was teen reader of adult pulp and the Michner and James Clavell epic thunder monsters hit the market running way, way longer. Moby Dick length.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That being said, if you’ve cut you’re novel until the fat is gone, and it’s at fighting weight and that weight is 120k (assuming you know how to edit), the book should launch at 120k. The question is, how keen is your wit, discerning your eye (your ear for dialogue) and how sharp is you knife?

        Liked by 1 person

          1. When I hire an editor, I tell them up front what I’m willing to accept and what not. When an editor tells me I’m wrong to set those parameters, I hire someone else. If an editor agrees and works with my sensibilities, I listen. If I don’t make the change s/he suggests, I always make a change s/he feels works too. But if something tickles an editor’s brain, I pay attention.

            Liked by 1 person

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