1. PastPresentNFuture
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    PastPresentNFuture Senior Member

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    Novel length

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by PastPresentNFuture, Aug 3, 2011.

    One thing that has annoyed me slightly over the years is how many words make a novel. Some people say 50,000 is the minimum. Some people say 40,000 is. I don't know guys. Can someone clarify things for me?
     
  2. beaver777
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    beaver777 Member

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    According to wikipedia a novel is over 40,000 words. There doesn't seem to be a clear consensus though. In NaNoWriMo the novels have to be at least 50,000 words.
     
  3. James Scarborough
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    James Scarborough Member

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    A lot depends on the genre but, except for YA and children's fiction, works in the range of 40,000 to 50,000 words are generally considered to be novelettes and there isn't much of a market for them today.

    For most general fiction, word counts range from 70,000 to 90,000 words. This is equivalent to about 280 to 320 pages. Some published SF and fantasy novels are as long as 120,000. Very few publishers want manuscripts shorter than 70,000 or longer than 120,000 words in any genre.
     
  4. NaughtyNick
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    NaughtyNick Member

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    80,000 seems to be the figure banded about for debut novels (unless its sci fi / fantasy in which case 120,000 seems to be the number).

    Then again, some of the great books have only been around the 50k mark, such as Animal Farm.
     
  5. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    ^^^^Yeah, 80K is the consistent guideline I've seen for debut novels.
     
  6. chronicler
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    chronicler Member

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    I spend a good deal of time on this subject myself, and I came across one answer that stuck out:

    Write the story until its finished - thats how many words.

    I have found over the last few months that word count is a double edge sword. If you write just so you have 80,000 words it might not be as good. Are you planning on publishing? Do you really care if its a novella or a novel?

    I myself have decided to take the advice above. The story is what's important.
     
  7. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's all well and good.

    But if you have ambitions of publishing something as 'a novel', then there are standards that publishers expect us to follow...
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Ignore the publishers' length guidelines, and the oublishers will ignolre your manuscript.

    They receive many more queries and manuscripts than they will ever use. Discarding manuscripts that ignore the guidelines is the easiest way to start paring down the mountain of manuscripts coming in.
     
  9. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Maybe it's different in the UK, but 2 agents have told me that 65-75 is the most marketable length for a first novel. If they are correct, 80,000 is too long. It depends a bit on genre perhaps--fantasy seems to be unusually long, for some quaint reason (LOTR?) IMO, some novels are overlong and wordy with far too much irrelevant and un-funny dialogue, and trimming them down to 70,000 does a service to the reader.
     
  10. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    Some numbers, gathered from the Wordpress blog, indefeasible.

     
  11. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Really? I've never heard that.

    What I've been quoted is 80,000-85,000 as the ideal.
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    though it's interesting info, none of the titles on that list bear any relevance to today's markets and publisher's preferences...
     
  13. NecessaryPain
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    NecessaryPain Member

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    I am in the process of writing my first novel. And i'm aiming for roughly 120,000 words.

    Would this be considered too much for publishers, if it gets that far?
     
  14. The-Joker
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    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

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    ^^^^

    Yes. If it's fantasy then 120k is the upper limit of marketable. If it's not then it's 20k more than the ideal length.

    As others have said, 80-100k is the perfect length for an unpublished writer. But a superb manuscript can bypass this restriction.
     
  15. [ESCAPE]
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    [ESCAPE] Member

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    50 K is the nanowrimo guideline.
    Different sources say different things, but I think any length above 4 k should be fine. Go further if you want, just in case :p
     
  16. NecessaryPain
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    NecessaryPain Member

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    The problem I have, is that my novel takes on two roles, and therefore two sides of an intertwining story. Two personalities, written in different narratives. (1st and third limited)

    It quite easily reaches 120k words, given the context. But it would not work as 2 seperate books, nor do I intend to do a 2nd or 3rd installment.
     
  17. The-Joker
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    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

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    ^^^

    Hey if that's the natural length of your book then keep it as so. You have nothing to lose by trying to market it, and if it's exceptionally written an agent might pick it up anyway. If not then you could always try to get it published as your second book.
     
  18. Darran
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    Darran Member

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    Hi,

    This is something that I also find confusing, from what I have read I would say, 40k would be a novella...and am told 80 -100k typical novel. Best advice: Read what the publisher you are targeting whats then write to order :)
     
  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it doesn't make any sense at all to target/write for just one publisher... why would any writer want to limit his/her book's chances so drastically?

    and if you're doing what most seasoned fiction writers do, which is first trying to get an agent who will then shop the work to many publishers, you're certainly not going to have different-sized versions of your ms on hand, to fit this or that publisher's preferred length, are you?
     
  20. The-Joker
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    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

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    ^^^

    Indeed.

    Best advice: Try to keep you book between 80-100k.
     
  21. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    Mine seem to naturally fall around 80. lol Most stopped just past it, although this could be due to the way I write. :rolleyes:
     

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