1. PeterC
    Offline

    PeterC Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2011
    Messages:
    191
    Likes Received:
    24
    Location:
    Vermont, USA

    How long is a novel?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by PeterC, Aug 10, 2011.

    I'm working on a novel. It's the first time I've tried writing anything like this so I don't have much experience. I've reached a milestone of sorts. All the major elements of my plot are in place and all my characters have been introduced and developed, more or less. For the first time the story reads complete from beginning to end, although it is very choppy in some places.

    The entire piece is currently about 60,000 words. I have no idea if this is long, short, or "about right." I understand there is a lot of variation but I feel at a lose to assess the overall length of what I have.

    There are still some holes in the plot that need plugging and some development that needs doing. On the other hand there are significant sections that I know I'm going to slash. I'm not sure what the first draft will look like when I'm done, but it could be similar in size, I suppose.
     
  2. Yoshiko
    Offline

    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2009
    Messages:
    758
    Likes Received:
    27
    How long is a piece of string? A story is as long as it needs to be.

    Each publisher will give you a different WC. Some regard as low as 40k a novel while others will say as much as 80k for a minimum length. National Novel Writing Month say 50k. So, some people would market a 60k story as a novel while others as a long novella. Genre is taken into consideration too in determining how long it should be at the min/max in publication.
     
  3. mattrjones
    Offline

    mattrjones New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2011
    Messages:
    13
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Canton, Illinois
    THAT is the answer I always give... tell a story until it's done. Excellent!

    However, as Yoshiko said, different publishers have different preferences. The number I hear most bandied about is 100,000 or within the neighborhood. Of course, all of submissions have been in a more "genre" format, so I'm sure if I were writing something else, I'd be looking at different numbers.

    What kind of novel are you writing? Take a look at potential publishers for that style of novel and see what the average word-count they want is... that should at least give you a ballpark figure.

    Hope that helps!
     
  4. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,724
    Likes Received:
    4,821
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    The number I've heard most often is 60,000 words, minimum. But Nanowrimo accepts 50,000. Anything shorter than that would probably not be considered a novel unless it's a kids book - YA or some such.

    To give you some idea of how long that is, Arthur Conan Doyle's famous Sherlock Holmes novel The Hound of the Baskervilles is almost exactly 60,000 words long.

    Of course, there is no upper limit. Tolstoy's War and Peace is around 600,000 words, depending on the translation. Ayn Rand's huge Atlas Shrugged is 645,000 words. Samuel Richardson's Clarissa, one of the earliest novels in English, is about a million words. Multi-volume novels can be much, much longer.

    So length is fairly arbitrary, and may be soon an obsolete consideration. The minimum length of a novel used to be primarily defined by the minimum number of pages a printer could print in a hardcover book and still make a profit. With e-readers like the Kindle, paper publishing may become a thing of the past, and there soon may be very little distinction between a novel and a novella and a short story.
     
  5. PeterC
    Offline

    PeterC Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2011
    Messages:
    191
    Likes Received:
    24
    Location:
    Vermont, USA
    Thanks for all the replies. They give me a general idea of what kind of word counts are approximately novel-length.

    I agree that the right length is what works. I also agree that in the electronic age length in the sense of word count might not play as important role as it did in the past. I've been striving to keep my chapters about equally balanced in length by keeping an eye on the size of the files holding them. Using electronic measures of size is definitely an important part of my writing experience.
     
  6. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Do you expect to publish the novel? If so, amd this is your first novel, the answer is 80,000-100,000 words )maqybe aqs much as 120,000 words.
     
  7. Pea
    Offline

    Pea super pea!

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2011
    Messages:
    330
    Likes Received:
    20
    Location:
    in the garden
    I'm in the same boat, at around 55k words. I've heard that 80k is the best place to be if it's your first novel and you're writing general fiction or fantasy etc. Seems to be what most people aim for around here.
     
  8. Solar
    Offline

    Solar Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2011
    Messages:
    538
    Likes Received:
    253
    Sounds like it's a novella. Don't worry about word count; concentrate on the quality, and stay true to the story's own logic.
     

Share This Page