“My memoir is 270,000 phrases lengthy.”
I heard these phrases throughout a breakout session I led at a neighborhood writers convention.
An editor good friend of mine, Shayla Eaton with Curiouser Enhancing, was sitting in on the breakout. We gave one another understanding glances, and since I didn’t need to break this poor memoirist’s literary coronary heart, I nodded at Shayla to take the lead.
As properly however as immediately as she may, she defined to the memoirist 270,000-word memoir was extreme. Even when she self-publishes, the fee per copy could be excessive, and few readers would slog by such a tome — significantly for somebody who’s not well-known.
And no brokers or publishers would even look previous that quantity.
The prose could possibly be as fleet-footed as Fitzgerald’s. The life story could possibly be as compelling as Lincoln’s. The platform could possibly be as broad as Oprah’s. However no agent would get to know that as a result of they’d see “Memoir: 270,000 phrases” and hit delete earlier than studying any additional.
So, how lengthy ought to a memoir be?
For that matter, how lengthy ought to any guide be? What’s the best guide phrase rely?
The quick reply is: lengthy sufficient to inform the story however quick sufficient to persistently maintain the reader’s curiosity.
The lengthy reply is, nicely, longer.
Why does novel phrase rely matter?
Phrase rely issues as a result of each guide, no matter style, has an inherent contract with the reader. However that contract depends upon the guide’s style.
For example, when a reader picks up a thriller, they’ve sure expectations of what they’re about to learn. That features scenes like “the hero on the mercy of the villain,” but it surely additionally consists of guide size. As a result of thrillers are about pulse-pounding motion and possibly some character growth (particularly if it’s a part of a sequence), the phrase rely isn’t huge. Thrillers are usually 70,000 to 90,000 phrases.
If you happen to’re not a thriller creator, I received’t hold you in suspense. On the finish of this text, you’re going to discover a information to instructed phrase rely size for many each widespread style.
My level is that your style will possible dictate your phrase rely. There are exceptions, like YA books that exceed 250,000 phrases, however these are usually outliers, and first-time authors not often, if ever, get to be an outlier.
Moreover, understanding your phrase rely earlier than you begin writing may help you higher plan your narrative arc in addition to your writing schedule.
What’s the common size of a guide?
Earlier than diving into the specifics of genre-based phrase counts, let’s have a look at the broader image of common guide size.
For many publishers, a guide is “novel-length” when it’s between 50,000 and 110,000 phrases.
At a writers convention I just lately attended, publishing veteran Jane Friedman stated 80,000 phrases is sweet for many fiction, beneath 60,000 isn’t novel size territory, and above 120,000 is probably going an excessive amount of.
Author’s Digest recommends 80,000 to 89,999 phrases as a “100% secure vary for literary, mainstream, ladies’s, romance, thriller, suspense, thriller and horror.” That’s roughly 300 pages of double-spaced sort.
In “Outlining Your E-book in three Simple Steps,” editor Shawn Coyne says, “The typical novel at the moment is about 90,000 phrases. Huge, epic tales get anyplace from 120,000 to 200,000 phrases.” However, he additionally mentions that “The Wizard of Oz was 40,000 phrases. The Outdated Man and the Sea was about 25 to 30,000 phrases, tops.”
Coyne makes use of the Nanowrimo word-count size of 50,000 phrases for his examples, calling 50,000 phrases a superb basis to construct upon.
So what does that imply for you, creator?
If you happen to’re engaged on a novel-length guide, goal for 50,000 phrases on the very least — but it surely’s higher to goal for 90,000. Editorial trimming is inevitable.
Nevertheless, you’ll additionally need to take your style into consideration.
What ought to my phrase rely be?
The next are common word-count ranges by style.
Mainstream Romance: 70,000–100,000 phrases
Subgenre Romance: 40,000–100,000 phrases
Science Fiction / Fantasy: 90,000–120,000 (and generally 150,000) phrases
Historic Fiction: 80,000–100,000
Thrillers / Horror / Mysteries / Crime: 70,000–90,000 phrases
Younger Grownup: 50,000–80,000
Image Books: 300–800 phrases
Early Readers: 200–3500 phrases
Chapter Books: 4000–10,000 phrases
Center Grade: 25,000–40,000 phrases
Commonplace Nonfiction (Enterprise, Political Science, Psychology, Historical past, and so on.): 70,000–80,000 phrases
Memoir: 80,000–100,000 phrases
Biography: 80,000–200,000 phrases
How-to / Self-Assist: 40,000–50,000 phrases
All of those are common guide phrase rely ranges and shouldn’t be taken because the definitive phrase rely you have to attain in your guide. Everyone knows of outliers inside every style which have been revealed nicely underneath, or nicely over, these phrase counts.
Use these numbers as a baseline in your writing objectives.
Know what readers count on by way of your style’s phrase rely (even when the reader isn’t conscious of their expectations relating to how lengthy a guide is).
What number of phrases per web page are you able to count on in a guide?
That is one other frequent query, and for many writers it ought to be simple to reply by utilizing a “phrase rely” characteristic in your writing software.
If you happen to’re writing in Microsoft Phrase or Google Docs, “phrase rely” is an possibility underneath “Instruments.” You can too observe phrase rely in Scrivener.
The typical single-spaced doc typed in 12-point font comprises about 500 phrases per web page, however that may differ fairly drastically relying in your formatting.
So, if in case you have an hour to write down and goal to get down 300 phrases, you may marvel, what number of pages is 300 phrases — and the reply is lower than one! Doable, proper?
If you happen to’re pondering larger and questioning, for instance, what number of pages is 50,000 phrases, merely divide your goal phrase rely (50,000) by 500 (since that’s the typical phrases per web page). Your reply right here is 100 pages.
Don’t let these commas instill concern. Fifty thousand phrases isn’t that a lot divided into 5 days every week for a yr. That’s solely 193 phrases per writing day!
We up to date this put up in August 2019 so it’s extra helpful and related for our readers!
In regards to the Writer: Blake Atwood
Blake Atwood is the creator of Don’t Concern the Reaper: Why Each Writer Wants an Editor and a contract editor and author with EditFor.me.