This is an often asked question among the various writing sites and social media pages, along with, how long should a chapter be?
Quite simply put, your story should be as long as it needs to be. In other words, just because your brother told you he loved your short story and wanted more, that doesn’t necessarily mean it should be stretched into a full-length novel. Likewise, when that full-length novel you planned to write tops out at just under 30,000 words, instead of adding fluff that does nothing but slow your pace and bog the story down, pat yourself on the back for the great novella you just finished. No one ever said it takes at least 100,000 words to write a great story.
And as for your chapters, my best advice is to let your story lead the way. You’ll know when to end a chapter and start a new one. You’ll feel it. Think in terms of a television show. If you were the director, when would you break away for a commercial? Scene switch? Right before that gun goes off or right after? Maybe right before a big reveal.
So what word count defines a short story or novella as opposed to a full-length novel? Well, here are some industry-standard figures to go by. But keep in mind that your genre plays into this as well.
Micro-Fiction: Up to 100 words
Flash Fiction: 100 to 500 words
Short Story: 500 to 7,500 (typically 1,000 to 8,000) words
Novelette: 7,500 to 17,500 words
Novella: 17,500 to 40,000 words
Novel: 40,000 to 110,000 (average 50,000 to 70,000 /
preferred 80,000 to 90,000) words
Epic Novel Over 110,000 words
By Genre (preferred/typical novel length)
Picture Books: 500 to 700 words
Middle Grade: 20,000 to 55,000 words
Upper Middle Grade: 40,000 to 60,000 words
Young Adult: 55,000 to 70,000 words
New Young Adult: 60,000 to 90,000 words
Western: 50,000 to 80,000 words
Romance: 80,000 to 100,000 words
Mystery: 75,000 to 100,000 words
Thriller: 90,000 to 100,000 words
Women’s Fiction: 75,000 to 110,000 words
Science Fiction 100,000 to 115,000 words
Fantasy: 100,000 to 115,000 words
Memoir: 80,000 to 90,000 words
Literary: 80,000 to 100,000 words
Commercial: 80,000 to 100,000 words
Aiming for these numbers is strongly suggested for first-time novelists, particularly if you’re hoping to land a literary agent.