Monday, January 25, 2010

Contemplating the Length of Books

While working on a novel of my own it crossed my mind that I've often heard  newer writers ask about the length of books.  How long should they be, how many pages?  How many chapters?

Well, there are no hard and fast rules, but in a broadly general sense, a book over 100,000 words is reaching toward mega-opus status (you might get away with this if you're an established best-selling novelist, but doubtful for a new-comer) and one under 60,000 words is pretty skimpy.   Generally a novel runs from about 80,000 to 100,000 words.  The newer writer is well advised to try to stay within that range.

The number of pages isn't something the writer needs to worry about, that's for the editor to determine.  As for the number of chapters, that's pretty much in your lap.  A chapter is determined by the writer as being a place for a logic break in the story, the transition to the next phase. 

Keep in mind, too, with all this, that different genres and sub-genres have different word requirements.  Check them out to get an idea of how long your novel might need to be.  You can also check places like Writer's Market to get information on a  publisher like submission guidelines where you might also see a notation about the length of manuscripts they expect to see.

Oh, and one last thing, remember you're never going to have a  consistent number of words to a page.  Some pages will be dense with text, others will have short paragraphs and bits of dialog.  Your word count on your word processor will get you pretty close to how many words your manuscript has.

Generally try not to worry about it too much, that's a pretty broad rage between 80,000 and 100,000 words.  And remember, cutting is easier than adding once the work is complete.

1 comment:

  1. Really great distillation of a very contentious subject! Thanks!


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