Counting Words

When the critique of House Valerius was done, my reviewer said that the book was a bit long but fine. And according to a lot of what I’m picking up, they might not be the only ones to think that.

The word count for book 1, according to Microsoft Word is 137,300, in its current form.  Now if you’re like me that number won’t mean much on its own. So here’s some extra info I’ve found on a few websites that I’ve looked at.

The general consensus seems to be that a novel can be anywhere from 40,000-50,000 words on the lower end and as high as 300,000 at the maximum, although most seem to recommend 80,000-100,000, for a first time novelist.

Now while I probably could trim some out of House Valerius, especially if I transferred some sections to short stories, I’m not sure I could cut a quarter of the book.

I don’t really have a final word count for A House Divided, since I’m still working with the initial draft but I’m not sure it would come in under 100,000 either.

There also seems to be a bit of a range when it comes to shorter work, particularly if you make some additional distinctions. The following was from the FAQs for the Nebula awards:

  • Novella — 17,500–39,999 words
  • Novelette — 7,500–17,499 words
  • Short Story — 7,499 words or fewer

Writing-world also uses much the same definitions while Writer’s Digest has slightly broader limits, although that might be combining the short story and novelette categories.

Since I’ve been playing with some of my unfinished short stories, the question of how long they should be has been on my mind. Again, they’re all first drafts so nothing’s final but, if I follow the Nebula guidelines, the one that I have completed falls into the novelette category. I’m pretty sure another will as well, if it doesn’t end up a novella. The others? Some are already more than halfway towards the 7,500 limit, without me being sure I’m halfway through the story.

Of course, it’s also possible I’m thinking about this far too much….





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