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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.

In General

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.

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Oct 17, 2019

When it comes to newbies, many agents and publishers will likely ask you to shorten you novel if you're over the limit or close to it. But keep in mind that it is easier to cut if required than it is to add. My advice is to tell your story to your best ability and only cut in the end if the experts say you must.


Quick question re the word counts... I love that these seem far kinder than what I've read before, especially since in trying to go the cut-cut-cut- route, I feel like there are some areas of my novel that are perhaps broken. Do you recommend going with the shorter of the range for a new novelist?


Great Information! Thanks!

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