Word Counts for Novels According to Genre

Word Counts for Novels According to Genre

Congratulations! You have an amazing idea for a novel that you think could really be the next big thing on Oprah’s Book Club!

You’ve figured out an amazing plot line, have some super enticing characters, and have a twist that will put all other twists to shame. There’s just one thing you might have forgotten to consider…

… How long it should be.

So, the question is, how many words in a novel?

The length of a book is one of the most important elements. In fact, some literary agents and publishers say that it is just as important as the story itself.

But why is the length so important?

Because you want to hold the attention of your audience… If your book is too long, you’re definitely going to lose their attention. Your novel may seem too long and drawn out, which can make it really hard for your readers to make it to the end.

Similarly, if your book is too short, your readers may be left feeling dissatisfied. They could be left scratching their heads and have a ton of questions that are left unanswered. Unless you are planning on writing a series and can answer all of those questions in upcoming books, that’s definitely something you don’t want to do.

Image result for reedsy novel length

So, How Long Should a Novel Be?

When it comes to determining the length of a novel, the genre is really going to play a key role. Different genres have different goals, and those goals can be met with word counts.

So, without further ado, here’s a look at what agents, publishers, and well-known authors recommend for average word lengths for different genres:

  • Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels. Of all the genres out there, science fiction and fantasy tend to have the longest word counts. That’s because there tends to be a lot of plot building and detailed explanations involved in these stories. In fact, readers expect books in this genre to be on the long end. On average, a science fiction or fantasy novel should be between 90,000 and 120,000 words. You might be able to get away with as much as 150,000 words, depending on your particular story; however, you really don’t want to go far beyond that (or you may want to avoid it, if you can) because your readers patience will really be tested.
  • Romance. The average romance novel contains anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 words. If you’re writing your book for a younger audience, such as young adults, stick to the lower end of this recommendation. If you’re writing for an older crowd, you can safely get away with more words. However, do keep in mind that you want to avoid overkill.
  • Mysteries and Thrillers. If you’re writing a book that ties into this genre (including horror), a good length would be anywhere between 70,000 and 90,000 words. You can successfully build enough suspense in this word count without making it seem too long, drawn out, and boring.

Using J.K. Rowling’s Plotting Chart Like a True Writing Nerd

Using J.K. Rowling’s Plotting Chart

There is no doubt that JK Rowling is a master of plot. The Harry Potter books introduce elements in the very first page that become important by the end of the book and that goes for the series as well. Innocuous little elements that you don’t even register consciously become majorly important in later books. So, how do you keep all of these things straight? One of the tools that JK Rowling used when plotting the Harry Potter books was a series chart or plotting chart. She actually released one that she used for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix which you can find here. We’ll be discussing why this chart works so well in this article.

Image result for jk rowling plot chart

The first thing you will notice as you open Rowling’s chart is that all of her major subplots are listed as the columns of the chart. The calm that she reserved for plot simply describes the action that is happening, but she also keeps track of other elements of plot – her subplots – like what is happening between Harry and Prof. Snape, the love triangle between Harry, Cho Chang and Ginny Weasley and plot points like Hagrid and Grawp.

Another thing that is really useful that rolling uses in her plot charts is a list of the time period when the events are happening. This makes sense because they take place over a normal school term at Hogwarts. However, even if you do not necessarily use time the same way that Rowling does, keeping track of when you’re plot events are taking place could be very useful especially when it comes to things like describing the weather or showing the time has passed.

You will notice, if you have read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, that this plot chart does not follow the actual plot exactly. That’s another important lesson to keep in mind here. Just because you write it down in your plot chart does not necessarily mean that you need to stick to it. In fact, having a plot chart like this can give you more confidence when it comes to allowing your characters take a detour. Characters can often have a mind of their own, and letting them go their own way sometimes works out very well for the story. If you have a chart like this, then you can always bring them back on track.

The bottom line is that while some writers like to write by the seat of their pants without any plot whatsoever, and others like to plan out everything in great detail far in advance, there is a way to do both by finding middle ground between these two extremes. You can create a loose plot and then allow your characters the freedom to move around through your story. Even if you just write Harry Potter Fanfiction, you should get a lot of use out of this method. There is no doubt that a chart like this can be useful in that regard. There can also be no doubt that JK Rowling has been able to use this device to become the most successful children’s author ever.

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