WORD COUNT FOR NOVELS AND CHILDREN’S BOOKS: THE DEFINITIVE POST
Word count for novels and books is something I don’t think about too often until I travel to a writers’ conference, and then someone asks a simple, innocent question: “How long should a book be?” With that in mind, I’ve tried to put together the definitive post on word count for fiction (novels, young adult, middle grade, children’s books and even memoir).
The most important thing here is to realize that there are always exceptions to these rules. And man, people love to point out exceptions—and they always will. However, if there is one thing I remember from when my wife dragged me kicking and screaming to He’s Just Not That Into You, it’s that you cannot count on being the exception; you must count on being the rule. Aiming to be the exception is setting yourself up for disappointment. What writers fail to see is that for every successful exception to the rule (e.g., a first-time 150,000-word novel), there are at least 100 failures if not 300.
Almost always, high word count means that the writer simply did not edit their work down enough. Or—it means they have two or more books combined into one.
“But what about J.K. Rowling???” asks that man in the back of the room, putting his palms up the air. Well—remember the first Harry Potter book? It wasn’t that long. After JK made the publishing house oodles and oodles of money, she could do whatever she wanted. And since most writers haven’t earned oodles, they need to stick to the rules and make sure they work gets read. The other thing that will make you an exception is if your writing is absolutely brilliant. But let’s face it. Most of our work does not classify as “absolutely brilliant” or we’d all have 16 novels at this point.