Word count is perhaps the last thing on a writer’s mind. After all, we are taught, to a certain extent even conditioned to continue writing as long as our creative juices flow. But word counts do matter as it dictates how your book will ultimately fare. When you are starting out as a writer, especially when it is a fictional work of prose narrative, it is not enough to have an excellent idea but to know to what extent you intend to flesh it out.
The word count of your book will determine how your story will be structured and ultimately, who your reader will be. This may not be as much of a concern if your manuscript is destined to be an e-book, but if you are planning to publish hard copies, publishers have certain criteria when it comes to the length of the manuscript.
According to The Artful Editor, an editorial agency that helps writers improve and polish their books for publication, the prescribed word count for adult fiction can range anywhere from 1000 to 120,000 words. For non-fiction books, this range falls between 20,000 to 150,000 words, and for children’s books, it is 50 to 80,000 words. These stats matter as they will affect the production cost of the book— the bigger the book, the more time it will take to edit and the more expensive it will be to print and store. If the book is too short for the intended genre, then it risks not having a spine, hence rendering itself invisible on the shelves of book stores.
Traditionally, the length of a manuscript is divided into four categories…
Set into the range of 3500 to 7500 words, short stories are one of the most common forms of writing where the emphasis is placed on describing a single event or focused on one character. You will not find too many plot twists or characters.
Set into the range of 7500 to 17,000 words, novelettes are referred to as “long short stories” or “short novellas” and have a greater focus on character development.
Set into the range of 17,000 to 40,000 words, novellas are often described as long short stories or short novels. With the added word count, there is room for multiple sub-plots, twists and characters.
Set into the range of 80,000 to 120,000 words or over, novels have the advantage of exploring multiple protagonists, sub-plots, points of view, conflicts and twists.