July 28, 2013

Now this is progress! >> How long should your novel be?

My children's book is in the hands of an enthusiastic agent. Will keep my fingers and toes crossed. I have quite a few ideas for picture books. Of course all of them feature dogs and cats.

Meanwhile, I've been working steadily on the final draft of my completed novel. I started by making detailed notes on what I wanted to change and subplots I wanted to clarify and expand. I also found a few areas where I did more telling than showing and changed those areas.


Now to a practical issue: how long should your novel be?

Having done a lot of research, I have found that the average 250 page novel breaks down to about 80,000 words. A good length for the average mystery or literary fiction title is 80,000-90,000 words, making the finished book between 250-300 pages. That is the ideal number of pages for a new writer to aim for (unless you write fantasy, more about that later).

Why is 80,000-90,000 words an ideal goal? If you go significantly over, you may be a bit verbose, meaning that you write about things going on and on and on, when more concise wording may be better. Remember, you have readers you want to appeal to who may not want to read overly long descriptions or detail. MORE IMPORTANTLY, book production costs money, so remember that the longer the book, the more expensive it is to produce. Publishers may not want to risk high production costs for a new author. Publishing is big business and profit is the goal.

That having been said, some science fiction and fantasy novelists can write as many as 150,000 words and be well paced with other fantasy titles. Fantasy writers still need to watch their pacing and editing just as much as any other writer does, however. Length is not a license to write boring material.

Take a walk through the bookstore. What do you see? Mystery and literature titles usually are 250-350 pages long. Now look through the fantasy section; very few books are as short as 250 pages with most topping out between 700-1000 pages.

Finally, read a lot in your genre and read a lot about writing and the publishing industry. You'll have a better idea how to write and what your writing goals should be.


Unknown said...

Used to be that a 25,000 words was accepted for a children's novel, more was frowned upon, and then along came J K Rowling and many children's authors are writing much longer novels that are being accepted. But for me, the 39,000 mark feels about right, works out about 170/180 pages in A5 with 12 font.

Mary said...

I should clarify that my novel is an adult novel.

The numbers you specify sound about right for a children's novel/chapter book.

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