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  #1  
Old 08-19-2002, 01:13 PM
dorkusmalorkusmafia dorkusmalorkusmafia is offline
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Typical length of a novel

As a soon to be aspiring writer I am wondering about the typical word count range of most novels that are out there now. The typical paperback that is roughly 300-400 pages would be a good guideline to start. Anyone have any idea how long a typical novel nowdays goes on for? I already know the inane answer of until the story is finished so please be respectful and try to put actual information in here.
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  #2  
Old 08-19-2002, 01:43 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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The problem is that there is no such thing as a "typical" novel.

Each type of fiction has generally acceptable lengths, but even these vary enormously within a genre.

Fantasy novels can be very long, even 1000 pages, for example, while science fiction works are long at half that length. Romance novels have many sub-types and each can have a different standard length.

Mainstream novels have huge variations in length, some family sagas or show-offy literary juggernauts being huge while terse personal journeys being quite short.

It's also true that lengths have ballooned over the years. Mysteries and sf were once long at 200 pages, but that would be short today.

In addition, bestsellers can often get away with more than newcomers. Books often seem to lengthen as an author's career progresses.

So if someone tells you that a novel is as long as its story is, that answer is neither inane nor disrespectful. If you're going to pad your short novel out to 400 pages just because you think that is "typical" your novel will suffer as a result.

Your best course is to study whatever particular genre your novel is going to be in and see if there are any guidelines. However, outside of romance, I'd be surprised if you found anyone (i.e. an editor or someone professionally knowledgeable) saying how long a novel should be.
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Old 08-19-2002, 02:36 PM
dorkusmalorkusmafia dorkusmalorkusmafia is offline
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Not to be rude but that was uninformative. Maybe I should have asked what is a typical word count for a book that is between 300-500 pages.
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Old 08-19-2002, 03:43 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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To be rude, if you can't frame a question in the form in which you want an answer, you probably can't write a novel either.

You new question doesn't have a specfic answer, either. If you've never noticed, each book is published with a different font size and a different number of lines per page.

If you want to know the word count of a book, count the words on a few different random pages, average that number and multiply by the number of pages in the book.
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Old 08-19-2002, 03:51 PM
dorkusmalorkusmafia dorkusmalorkusmafia is offline
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Wow, I don't want a specific answer I want a range. How many words does it take to make a 300-500 page novel as a rough estimate?

It looked pretty straightforward to me. I guess I will have the mods close this one.
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  #6  
Old 08-19-2002, 08:50 PM
agentfroot agentfroot is offline
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a lot of the novels i like are around 200 pages. then there are other big, thick novels that are over 700 pages. i suppose it depends on your story and how long the plot is, how detailed things are, etc.

well, i would assume that for a 300-500-page novel, it might run between 90,000 and 150,000 words. i'm not quite sure though, as i've never really counted.
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Old 08-20-2002, 06:11 PM
CMC CMC is offline
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A good rule of thumb (as it is a question I have asked myself) in "The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing" which says to check out books of the genre you are interested in and do this: Book pages * lines on a full page *9 (number of words). Possibly cheesy formula, but most things that work (or sell) are.
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Old 08-20-2002, 08:42 PM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is offline
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Most science fiction/fantasy publishers want novels of at least 80,000 words and I'd say that 70,000 is about the minimum these days.

If you use 12 point Courier (and you should), you get approximately 250 words/page. So 320+ pages should be within the ballpark.
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Old 08-21-2002, 06:21 AM
sol.una sol.una is offline
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Word count per page depends on the page format, the type face and how tightly the type is organised. All three of these factors are determined by the publisher in tandem with the printer. Short books can be bulked up and long ones made to seem less intimidatingly long. That said, there are norms and conventions. An average page in (for example) Royal format, which is a common format for hardback fiction, and set in Garamond at a readable point size will come in around 450 words so your envisaged range of 300 to 500 pages would mean a book of 135,000 to 225,000 words. Your average MS page will probably have less than that so you would have to do some math to make the conversion. I don't think publishers are too exercised by length provided it's justified by the material. John Calder set some very short texts by Samuel Beckett in large type and published them as individual books. The upper limit is really set by binding costs. Above 1,000 pages this can get expensive because technically difficult. Low weight paper is the usual solution. Norman Mailer's "Harlot's Ghost" was printed on paper not much over Bible thickness. Economies of scale also come into play - you can print a 1,000 page book very cheaply if you print enough of them (hence Bibles are cheap) - but this is a hard argument to make for a novel from a new author. I'm drifting off the point so I'll wish you luck and leave it at that.
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  #10  
Old 08-21-2002, 12:07 PM
dorkusmalorkusmafia dorkusmalorkusmafia is offline
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I am very happy I didn't write to have this thread closed. I have written my life story as a primer to a novel to see if I could do it. I wrote it all in word and it has roughly 45K words and is around 80 pages (in Word). I am basically finished writing in it since I followed a specific theme in my life story and it is basically explored all the way. Perhaps I should go in and pepper it with other antedotes or something to see how it will go.

It seems like I will have a little ways to go in order to turn something into a full scale novel then but not nearly as far as I imagined. I know roughly how much work it took me to write that much so now I think I know how much I would have to write for a full blown thematically consistent novel. Thank you all for producing good information.
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  #11  
Old 08-21-2002, 01:23 PM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by dorkusmalorkusmafia
Perhaps I should go in and pepper it with other antedotes or something to see how it will go.
That's an old trick from lesson nine of Michael O'Donoghue's How to Write Good. The right kind of poison can work wonders.

45K words on 80 pages? Single spaced, obviously (you double space a manuscript), but the type size has to be too small, too. Use Courier 12 -- it's the industry standard.
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Old 08-21-2002, 03:05 PM
dorkusmalorkusmafia dorkusmalorkusmafia is offline
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I used 12 point Times New Roman single spaced for all the writing. . Thanks to the wonders of word processors converting the entire thing to Courrier font and double spaced. It is nearly 180 pages now. Since I haven't gone through and reread it I don't know if I rambled nearly as much though. After I add anything else I want into it I suppose that I will have to edit it for content.

I am reading through those websites now. They are very interesting. Anything really helps. Particularly what publishers tend to accept for manuscripts. Thank you for supplying both the "how to write good" website as well as the "MS Preparation by Chuck Rothman" site.

Is that latter person you, by chance? I didn't have time to read through them this morning but now that my time has freed up for the afternoon temporarily. I should probably get back to reading them rather than playing the procrastinator here.
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  #13  
Old 08-21-2002, 10:14 PM
elfkin477 elfkin477 is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by RealityChuck
Most science fiction/fantasy publishers want novels of at least 80,000 words and I'd say that 70,000 is about the minimum these days.

If you use 12 point Courier (and you should), you get approximately 250 words/page. So 320+ pages should be within the ballpark.
I've been wondering for a long time if there was a formula to figure out how many words fit on a page of a hardcover, trade, or massmarket book and this thread has been helpful in that regard.

But tell me about spacing and fonts. For the last ten months I've been writing a series of connected fan fics instead of other stories simply because I haven't gotten a lot of ideas lately(I am working on other projects, slowly but surely, though. I need more beta readers to keep me motivated with the complex story I'm trying). That's what my unusual link down there is- the site where I put up the completed stories in the series.

Anyway, I decided to copy and paste all the stories into one document, to see how much I've written total. I prefer Times New Roman, since I think Courier is terribly ugly, and I write single-spaced, skipping only lines between new speakers of dialogue and new paragraphs. I know my professors frowned on skipping lines between paragraphs, but until they read my fics they have no say in it, right? Thus far the stories are 112,000 words (not including the w.i.p.) and cover 295 pages if I use TNR.
I just tried Courier and it comes to 361 pages. How is it possible that one 12pt font is so much more...expansive, than another?? And how did I manage to write something so long? It's sort of sad that the longest plot I've been able to mantain focus on is nothing more than a fan fic.

I'm rambling here. My question was, given your figure of 320 courier font pages, is that assuming single or double spaced pages? Sorry it took so long to get to the point!
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  #14  
Old 08-22-2002, 07:51 AM
Charlie Tan Charlie Tan is offline
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Also: remeber that you cannot proof read on the screen. It doesn't matter if you have spellcheck and grammarcheck. You need to read it all on paper, before re-writing, to find inconsistencies and other stuff. I've had MS that doesn't show any red or green waves. And then, when I read the MS on paper I at how many mistakes and faults it contains.
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  #15  
Old 11-20-2010, 01:44 AM
corrine corrine is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dorkusmalorkusmafia View Post
I am very happy I didn't write to have this thread closed. I have written my life story as a primer to a novel to see if I could do it. I wrote it all in word and it has roughly 45K words and is around 80 pages (in Word). I am basically finished writing in it since I followed a specific theme in my life story and it is basically explored all the way. Perhaps I should go in and pepper it with other antedotes or something to see how it will go.

It seems like I will have a little ways to go in order to turn something into a full scale novel then but not nearly as far as I imagined. I know roughly how much work it took me to write that much so now I think I know how much I would have to write for a full blown thematically consistent novel. Thank you all for producing good information.
If your book right now is about 45k words, it's considered a novella. It goes: short story, novelette, novella, novel. A novel usually begins at 70 - 75k words - which is roughly 300 pages, maybe less. You should keep it as a novella if your story is finished. But sometimes there are ways to 'build a character' a little better. Sometimes people tend to build the 'story' well, but they don't build a character well enough for the reader to engage with them. (example, traits, thoughts, way of speaking, etc) Good Luck
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Old 11-20-2010, 02:10 AM
Bosstone Bosstone is offline
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Why on earth was this thread resurrected to reply to a banned poster?
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  #17  
Old 11-20-2010, 02:45 AM
devilsknew devilsknew is offline
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I'd probably say in the current trend, right now, at my library, it seems 350 pages of standard text as an average, twice that as an outlier. Sometimes less, depending.

Last edited by devilsknew; 11-20-2010 at 02:45 AM..
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Old 11-20-2010, 03:49 AM
jackdavinci jackdavinci is offline
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I don't know why this is so hard or controversial. Pages are completely meaningless, easily swayed by font size. Word counts are incontrovertible though. (*wiki

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Nebula Award [1] gives the following guidelines: Novel 40,000 words or more; Novella 17,50039,999 words; Novelette 7,50017,499 words; Short Story 7,499 words or fewer.

Novellas 17,500-40,000 words. (Alternately 10,000-70,000 words.)

Novelette is of between 7,500 and 17,499.

A classic definition of a short story is that one should be able to read it in one sitting. Other definitions place the maximum word count at 7,000 to 9,000 words. SFFWA defines short story as less than 7,500.

There's also short short stories.

Then there are poems... LOL

But you can see, specific guidelines are meant for writing contests, especially for the Nebula award. Real novels can be of almost any length. If it's really too small, you are best to market it to some kind of short story collection. But if it's at least a novella or even novelette (at least 7500 words) you might be able to market it as a book. The final price might not be as high as a thicker book, but it might still make it a s a singular entity.

OTOH, your title implies some sort of average. I leave this to others more versed in statistical talents.

But I would guess that ultimately, the minimum for a book is about 18000 words. After that, I guess how much money is involved depends on how many pages and how likely the publishers think the book is to succeed based on cotent.
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  #19  
Old 11-20-2010, 08:12 AM
septimus septimus is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jackdavinci View Post
Word counts are incontrovertible though.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Winston Churchill
Broadly speaking, the short words are the best, and the old words best of all.
(Sorry for intrusion. Just wanted to get into an 8-year old thread! )
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