A General Recommendation for the Length of a Novel
Word counts is something that a lot of new authors tend to overlook. They are so involved with their ideas and just want to get their ideas out on paper.
However, while you certainly want to let your ideas flow and don’t want to be constricted, it’s a good idea to keep length in mind when you are writing a novel. Why? – Because length is just as important as the topic, the title, and the plot line. If it’s too short, you are going to leave your audience hanging. If it’s too long, your readers could have a tough time getting through to the end – if they even pick it up at all…
So, with that said, how long should your novel be? That really depends on the type of book you are writing. Here, we share what literary agents and publisher recommend regarding length in terms of word count for different genres and their intended audience.
Literary and Commercial Novels for Adults
The average word count for novels in this genre is between 80,000 and 90,000 words. This range is considered to be “safe” for various topics that fit into this genre, including romance, mystery, suspense, horror, thriller, and crime novels.
You can have fewer words – or more – but you really don’t want to go too far below or above. If you’re much below the 80,000 mark, your audience may not find the book fulfilling. If you go too far over the 90,000 word mark, your audience may have a really hard time getting through to the end.
Fantasy and Science Fiction Novels
Fantasy and science fiction novels tend to run longer than other genres. That’s because books that fall into these genres usually contain a lot of description before getting to the climax.
A good word length for these types of novels is between 100,000 and 115,000. It’s long, but not too long to make it boring and drawn out. If you go much below the 100,000 word mark, you probably won’t be able to effectively develop your story. Likewise, if you go too far above the 115,000 count, your readers may end up screaming, “ENOUGH ALREADY! GET TO THE POINT!”
Middle Grade Fiction Novels
Middle grade fiction is geared toward young readers, between the ages of 9 and 12. As expected, these readers have a generally short attention span – even if they are advanced readers.
Agents and publishers say that a length of anything between 20,000 and 55,000 words is safe for novels that fit into this category. The subject matter will really play a big part in whether you stick closer to the lower or the higher end. For example, if the book is historical fiction, you might want to go toward the lower end, but if it’s fantasy, you might want to try going a little higher.
Young Adult Novels
In regard to genres and word count, young adult offers the most flexibility. Word counts can vary between 50,000 and 80,000. In fact, some young adult novels can even get to 85,000 words and be a smashing success. The topic will really play a big part in the length of the book.