Word counts vary a lot across the terms – what is flash fiction, short fiction, a novella or novel? I do get this question quite often, so thought I’d have a look around and find out what the “experts” have to say.
PLEASE – always check the guidelines for the house you are pitching to. It doesn’t matter what anyone else says – it only matters that you follow the specific guidelines for that publication or house. That shows not only professionalism, but respect.
Here you go –
Writing-World (http://www.writing-world.com/fiction/length.shtml) says –
Micro-fiction is up to 100 words
Flash fiction is 100- 1000 words
Short story is 1,000-7,500 words
Novellette 7,500-20,000 words
Novella 20,000-50,000 words
Novel 50,000-110,000 words, though average is 70,000 words
Epic Novels – over 110,000 words
According to Writers Digest, word counts look like this. (See http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/word-count-for-novels-and-childrens-books-the-definitive-post for the complete article by Chuck Sambuchino.)
In General –
As few as 71,00 and as many as 109,000 words for adult novels in both commercial and literary genres. Exception: Sci-Fi which tends to run more like 100,000 – 115,000 words.
Middle Grade should run from 20,000 to 55,000 words. Respect age range and subject matter. Upper Middle Grade (12 year olds) will expect 40,000-55,000 words.
Young Adult, or YA as it’s known in the industry can be very flexible. Content is important. 55,000-69,999 is considered a good range for the word counts. If writing in the Sci-FI arena, might be able to stretch it to the low 70,000’s. But do it carefully.
Picture Books are considered standard at 32 pages and contain one to five lines of text. Word count for the book will be 500-600 words. Over that, it will be very hard to sell.
Westerns seem to be on the shorter side and range from 50,000 – 80,000 with 65,000 words about the average word count.
Memoir is another flexible genre, but full-length is considered to be between 70,000 and 89,000 but it had better be really good stuff.
Yes, it is best to always remember, that you must tell the story and when the story is told, then the story is told and the word count is irrelevant. I can totally agree with that during the writing process. I can tell you from experience, that it is NOT the attitude you need once you start editing. When aiming at a traditional publisher, word count is a determining factor.
And if you are self-publishing, though the word count isn’t as rigid a factor, writers have to make sure that every one of those words counts. Readers are very demanding and if you waste their time, they will not forgive you for it. And in this age of “instant” fame or destruction, why risk readers, especially when you are just starting out?
Making your words count is something a responsible, powerful and successful writer will always edit for. Your readers deserve the very best, no matter how the book is published. Give it to them, and they’ll be back for more!
Keep reading and writing! Nancy Q.