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How long should my book be?

Measuring tool
Photo by Diana Polekhina on Unsplash
I’m always asked that question. My first answer is exactly how I answered my students in my college writing classes: “As long as it takes.”

And, I still believe that.

My first book, “Just a Girl,” a coming-of-age fiction, is about 55,000 words.

“Claim Denied” is 85,000 words, and its sequel, “What Lies Beneath the Willow,” is 89,000 words. Both are in the mystery and thriller genres. I didn’t think about word count when I was writing them. These two books just “took that long” to tell the story. But, that’s just me.

Let's look at Stephen King and J.K. Rowlings.

Stephen King's longest book, approximately 472,000 words,  is "The Stand," in the horror genre. It is an epic post-apocalyptic novel that delves into themes of good versus evil in a world devastated by a deadly pandemic.

His novella, “Elevation," is a supernatural fiction, 27,000 words, is a heartwarming tale that follows protagonist Scott Carey, a man who begins to mysteriously lose weight while showing no physical changes.

J.K. Rowling's longest book, approximately 257,000, is "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," of the young adult/fantasy genre. This installment in the Harry Potter series is notable for its darker themes, character development, and the escalating conflict in the wizarding world.

Her shortest work, 28,000 words is "The Tales of Beedle the Bard," is a part of a series of  wizarding fairy tales.
Standard Number of Words in Fiction

Famous authors can break the mold, of course, so let’s look at the standard number of words in fiction suggested by editors and publishers, across genres.
1. Mystery: 70,000 - 90,000 words
2. Thriller: 80,000 - 100,000 words
3. Science Fiction: 90,000 - 120,000 words
4. Fantasy: 90,000 - 150,000 words
5. Historical Fiction: 80,000 - 100,000 words
6. Romance: 50,000 - 100,000 words
7. Horror: 70,000 - 100,000 words
8. Adventure: 70,000 - 90,000 words
9. Literary Fiction: 70,000 - 100,000 words
10. Young Adult (YA): 50,000 - 80,000 words
11. Children's: Varies depending on age group (e.g., picture books, chapter books, middle-grade)
12. Dystopian: 70,000 - 100,000 words
13. Comedy: 60,000 - 90,000 words
14. Crime: 70,000 - 100,000 words
15. Paranormal: 70,000 - 100,000 words
16. Western: 50,000 - 80,000 words
17. Chick Lit: 80,000 - 100,000 words
18. Urban Fantasy: 80,000 - 100,000 words
19. Magical Realism: 70,000 - 100,000 words
20. Satire: 60,000 - 90,000 words
These are general estimates and word counts vary based on the author's style, the complexity of the plot, and the target audience for the book.

Having said that, when writing your book, the number of words is one of the last considerations.

Just write “as long as it takes” to finish the story.

How long are your books? What genre are you working on now?

Happy writing!




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