Genre v.s. Word Count


Nanowrimo has one goal. Reach 50,000 words in a month. According to the website, 50,000 words is not called a novella but a ‘lengthy work of fiction‘. Anyone who has participated or are familiar with the website knows this and work hard to produce 50,000 words within the time-frame. 

But one thing I’ve always asked myself is what is the right word count for a story? Any story?  A novella, which Nanowrimo is not about, is short. 50,000 words fits right at home at this number but what about other works? Longer works? 

When I attended the Los Angeles Writer’s Conference last month I met a fellow writer and we talked about anything and everything pertaining to writing. One thing we discussed was word count. When I told him my romance/erotic novel was over 100K words, ( 104,950 to be exact) his first response was “Isn’t that too long for a novel?” I didn’t know what to say so I just replied honestly: “I don’t think so.” Yes, that response was lame but it was all I could come up with at that time. 

Since then I have looked in the right amount of words a person should have for their stories and I found so many different numbers on different sites. Two websites that I spent time looking for the answer is writers digest and literary rejection. There are other sites but I focused on these two.

According to Writer’s Digest, Adult Novels (Commercial and Literary), the word count should be between 80,000 and 89,999. Speaking broadly, you can go  from 71,000 to 109,000. Adult Novels are classified as: literary, mainstream, women’s, romance, mystery, suspense, thriller and horror. 

Writer’s Digest also included the following chart: 

80,000 – 89,999:       Totally cool
90,000 – 99,999:       Generally safe
70,000 – 79,999:       Might be too short; probably all right
100,000 – 109,999:    Might be too long; probably all right
Below 70,000:           Too short
110,000 or above       Too long

Now, Lit Rejections also has a thing or two to say about word count. Their website breaks it down a little different then Writer’s Digest, by genre, but provides around the same word count. For my genre, Lit Rejections says the word count should be between 70,000 to 100,000. Their maximum number puts my novel above the scope of being too long by 4,950 words. 

So which one is right? Well, both of them. How is that possible?  What I’ve learned is editors know the range of genre’s. They’d have to but at the same time they do allow some wiggle room on the word count. There are some books that are allows to sneak in above or below as long as the content is there. There are many books out on the market that surpass the word count, they actually smash the word count. Some of those books, according to Lit Rejection, are:

  1. Gone with the Wind: 418,053 words
  2. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: 308,931 words
  3. Memoirs of a Geisha: 186,418 words

If these editors didn’t take a chance on these books then we would never have them on our bookshelves today.  And let’s not forget:

What’s the moral of the story? Word count is important but it shouldn’t be taken so seriously that it completely defines your novel. You shouldn’t panic over how many words you did or did not write. Just write. 

If you’d like to read more about word count from the articles I mentioned then click below:

Writer’s Digest


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