How Short Is To Short?

I know you aren’t posting as often lately, but I have a question that I just haven’t really found an answer. [I’m trying to do better…]

I’ve looked around for ideas of how many words a typical novel is. One blog entry I read that a new author typically falls between 62,000 and 75,000 words. I’m currently at almost 35,000 words. I’ve looked through my WIP and can see I areas that I guess could fill in maybe 15,000 words (hopefully). At that point, hopefully in editing, I could find some areas to fill in. But what if I only hit about say 50,000 words. Is that too short to consider? I should add the WIP would be considered in the romance or chic lit. My biggest part of the question is what is too short for a novel? Is there a number that most publishers like new authors to hit near? Thanks.

How many words should your book have? The easy answer is: as many as it takes to tell the story.

And that’s true.

But what is needed to tell the story and what’s not is based on opinions. So here are some general rule-of-thumb guidelines.

Genres for the adult reader (including romance and chick lit), are generally 80,000 to 100,000 words.

Genres for older children (both Middle Grade and Young Adult) or for certain types of inspirational novels, are generally 50,000 to 90,000 words.

In my opinion, 50,000 words puts you in the novella category and publishing contracts for novellas are rare(er) these days. I’d suggest adding a subplot or two to expand your story and getting it nearer that 80K mark.

If you have a particular publisher in mind, go check their website for Submission Guidelines (or something similar) and see if they have recommended word counts for their genres.

For other takes on word counts, visit here and here and here.

3 thoughts on “How Short Is To Short?”

  1. At 50,000 words, you might be able to fit into category romance (like Harlequin, etc.). You have to look at the submission guidelines carefully to find the right line for your work (including "heat level" and length). Like in LDS publishing, you don't necessarily need an agent to get into category romances.

  2. It's me, the questioner. Well, I'm definitely not Harlequin. I think the problem I have is that I don't have enough experience yet at writing. I write here and there, have lots of novel ideas. Even some starts of novels. I just am struggling with getting the WIP in the right spot.

    I started this one with writing out different parts of the novel. I had the beginning, the middle, and the end. Now I have to fill in. But when filling it in, I just can't find enough plot line. But, I felt the same way when I was at 17,000 words and look how far I've come. I'm sure that's why you don't send in the first draft. You may find better/more plotlines when you go back and re-read and do another draft.

    Writing isn't my top priority right now in life though, so I'm sure as I work at it more and more I will just get better and better. 🙂

  3. One thing you might want to consider is adding additional story lines. Typically if your novel is only 50k words, you are focusing on just one story line.

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