Determining Your
Novel Word Count

Ever wonder what your novel word count should be? Once you know that, do you know how to break it down into daily, weekly and monthly goals to reach that word count?

If you don't, don't despair. I've heard far too often that novels should never be more than about 300 pages. If that's the case, why do all my favorite authors write novels of 375-475 pages?

Obviously, someone's thinking "short and sweet" in this day of instant gratification. But give me a break. If you're reading a novel, you don't expect to be done in ten minutes!

Okay. Rant over. Let's look at some novel word counts to see what may work for your novel.

Children's Novels

Let's start where we all started reading (at least most of us who love to write, did): with novels written for children.

If you want to write in this genre, you need to keep in mind the endurance of new readers. I'm talking first and second graders, maybe up to fourth graders. These kids have this brand new skill and they're prime to learn to love reading fiction. So, give them what they want.

But keep it reasonably short. The novel word count for a young readers' story should only be 10,000-40,000 words, or 50-100 pages. Too much longer, and you'll lose the ones who are working hard to master this new skill of reading. (Then there are the precocious ones like my daughter who asked at the end of homeschooled first grade if it was alright if she reread the first three Harry Potter books to herself. Good grief!)

If you're writing for the tween set, you'll be able to jump in deeper. This would be kids from fourth grade to possibly eighth (though the older ones, having been exposed to far too much crap by that age, are often too jaded to pick up a good story and look "immature" to their friends at school. Which is too darn bad for those of us who write great books for them.

So, what's a good novel word count and page count for this group? I'd stick to 50,000-75,000 words, which translates to somewhere in the neighborhood of 150-250 pages, depending on the type size and layout of the book. See, we're approaching that magic 300-page mark, already.

Teen Novels

For teens, you still need to take into account short attention spans. Yes, despite what you might think, this age group often regresses to three-year-old behavior and attention spans once more. Don't worry, if they don't grow out of this phase, they'll fit right into much of adult society. Just joking... They do usually grow up.

So what should your novel word count be for this set? I'd use the same limits as the tweens. Besides not having much longer attention spans, they frequently have many more activities at this age, and less time to read. So give them a break, and keep it moderate.

If they're fans of specific adult genres, they'll read those. Believe me, avid readers don't care how long a book is, as long as it's well-written.

Fiction Genres

I don't think I can give a novel word count for every genre out there. Especially because these days we seem to be combining genres more and more: romantic suspense, historic adventure...

Let's see if I can generalize. Much genre fiction tends to fall in the 250-350 page range, so if you aim for that, you should be doing well. That translates to somewhere between 75,000 words and 105,000 words, again depending on layout and font used.

There are a few notable exceptions: epic fantasies, historical fiction, some memoirs (I know, not really novels, but many people use similar techniques to write these)... these types of books tend to be longer. Say 350-500 pages. Your novel word count can reach 150,000 in no time, if you're writing this type of book.

My final suggestion is to ignore all the "you shoulds" and write the story you need to write with as many words as it takes. If it seems too long, try to cut unnecessary parts out. You should do a detailed edit, anyway. Then, just get it published. Someone thought James Michener's epic tomes worth publishing, didn't they?

How Long Will it Take?

If you want to know how long it will take you to write your total novel word count, you'll have to do a little math. I recommend you set daily and weekly writing goals and try hard to stick to them. Otherwise, you'll end up being another novelist-wannabe.

You can divide the total number of words for the style of novel you're writing by the number of days you want to take getting it down to come up with daily, weekly and monthly totals. Let's take that 300-page "perfect length novel" for an example.

Each page will have 250-300 words on it, depending on type style and layout. (Larger pages have more words.) I did a sample count of a paperback and a hardcover novel page. Each one had 275-280 words on one page. Let's say 300 words per page, so you get farther faster.

A 300-page book will have a novel word count of 90,000 words, at that count. Divide 90,000 by two months (60 days), and you get a daily word count of 1500 and a weekly one of 10,500.

But this assumes you have seven days a week to write. I rarely write seven days a week. Five, yes. So if I can only crank out 1500 words a day, it will actually take me (working five days a week) three months to scribble down my rough draft.

See how it works? If you can only manage 250 words a day, you can still write a novel in a year. And that's all many authors publish in one year.

If you're prolific, maybe you can write 1500 words an hour (or for the most intimidating of authors, 3000 words in an hour). If that's the case, and you have more than one hour a day to devote, you'll have a rough draft out in thirty days or less. Go you!

So find your "comfort zone" of how many words you can manage, and figure out your total time. Then try to stick to that schedule.

Keeping Track

Okay, so now you know how many words total to write, how long you think it'll take. How are you going to keep track of your novel word count progress?

Well, I've never felt the need to keep anything more than the word count in my files. My program automatically tells me how many words I've written.

But if you feel you want a way to "look" at your progress, I found three places online where you can either input your count and download a graphic showing your progress, or keep a calendar of sorts. I did not test any of these out, or download the ones you can, so use caution (as you should with all unfamiliar websites).

The first is online, and it gives you a progress bar. You can include a "percentage done" or not, if you wish, but you have to go online, input your word count and update the graphic each time you want to check. It's on a website called All Freelance Writing.com

The next word tracker is a download available free at Scribd.com You must either sign up with them or have a Facebook account sign-up to download the file. This one's a month's calendar, so you'd need to make copies for each month.

The last one is a free program you can download. I don't know it's options, because I didn't download it, but it's available at Free Download Center.com.

I hope these novel word count estimates and word tracking ideas help you finish your novel.

Happy writing!



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