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Word Counts for Different Novel Genres

Word Counts for Different Novel Genres

Determining the ideal word count for your novel is a crucial aspect of writing. While your plot, characters, and premise are vital, the question of length often gets overlooked.

Though some writers advocate that a novel should be as long as necessary, the reality is a bit more nuanced. Word count depends on the genre, and there's no one-size-fits-all answer.

So, you turn to Google: "How many words in a novel?" "What's the perfect word count?"

In this article, we'll explore the significance of word counts, genre-specific guidelines, and effective ways to edit your manuscript to fit these recommendations.

Why Does Word Count Matter?

Yes, word counts are important. Readers have expectations based on their experience with a genre. Deviating significantly from the expected word count might raise eyebrows or skepticism.

Moreover, shorter novels are usually easier to sell. Longer books can be intimidating for readers due to the time commitment they require. Consequently, publishers consider word counts when evaluating manuscripts.

Longer books also come with higher production costs, making them less financially appealing to publishers. Additionally, they might signal potential issues with pacing, plot, or editing.

Let's dive into the guidelines for different genres:

Picture Books Word Count

0–500 words Designed for babies, young children, or pre-readers, picture books feature colorful illustrations and brief text that complements the images. Rhyming texts are common but challenging to translate.

Middle Grade Novels Word Count

30,000–50,000 words Targeting readers aged 8–12, middle grade novels bridge the gap between reading with adults and independent reading. They're more advanced than chapter books, which are for children aged 5–10.

Young Adult (YA) Novel Word Count

50,000–90,000 words Written for readers aged 12–18, YA novels cover diverse protagonists facing changes and challenges. Fantasy YA might have more words due to world-building.


New Adult (NA) Novel Word Count

50,000–90,000 words A crossover between YA and adult fiction, NA appeals to a broad audience. Themes include early adulthood experiences and exploration of identity, gender, and sexuality.

Contemporary Fiction Novel Size

70,000–90,000 words Set in the modern world, these novels target a mass audience and focus on relatable themes. Common and versatile, their word count is fairly standard.

Literary Fiction Novel Size

50,000–100,000 words Character-focused and thematically driven, literary fiction delves into the human condition. Word counts can vary, but 50,000–100,000 is typical. Longer novels must justify their length.

Romance Novels

50,000–90,000 words Ranging from contemporary to historical, romance novels explore romantic relationships. Harlequin/Mills and Boon have specific word counts. Longer word counts are less common.

Science Fiction Novels

80,000–120,000 words Covering scientific ideas and advanced technology, sci-fi can span various sub-genres. Word count depends on commercial vs. literary focus and world-building complexity.

Fantasy Book Size

80,000–150,000 words Fantasy novels require extensive world-building. While debuts shouldn't max out the scale, the ideal is around 120,000 words for better publishing prospects.

Speculative Fiction Book Word Count

70,000–100,000 words Set in worlds similar yet different from ours, these stories often involve key plot details. Being grounded in a familiar world keeps the word count manageable.

Suspense/Thriller Word Count

70,000–90,000 words This genre involves pursuit and escape, often aligned with contemporary fiction. Stay around 70,000–90,000 words for optimal pacing and tension.

Mystery/Crime Novel Word Count

60,000–80,000 words Mystery novels focus on questions and revelations. Balance character development with pace, keeping the word count between 60,000 and 80,000 words.


70,000–100,000 words These eerie stories emphasize tension and limited casts. Vastly fantastical novels can go beyond 100,000 words.

Historical Fiction

75,000–100,000 words Grounded in historical backgrounds, these novels offer rich detail. However, prioritize plot and pace. Aim for under 100,000 words.

Memoir Word Count

60,000–90,000 words Memoirs focus on personal experiences and themes. Ensure immersive storytelling and emotional resonance, keeping length proportional to the story.

Editing for the Right Word Count

If your novel seems too long, consider these editing steps:

  1. Start in the right place: Enter scenes at crucial moments, avoiding mundane details.
  2. Kill darlings: Remove indulgent prose that doesn't contribute to the story.
  3. Trim subplots and backstories: Focus on one strong subplot and essential characters.
  4. Avoid repetitions: Trust your readers and your writing. Remove unnecessary repetition.
  5. Expand with purpose: If your novel is too short, add tension, character depth, or subplots.

Remember, while these guidelines offer direction, quality storytelling is paramount. Work within the genre's expectations while maintaining an engaging narrative. 

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