Wednesday, February 26, 2014

How Long Should My Book Be?

This week, 25 Ways to Beat Writer's Block is free on the Kindle. To celebrate that fact, we're going to look at some of the basic questions new writers ask. I've addressed this next question before, but things have changed.

How long should my book be?

Figuring out how long a book should be is one of the more complicated aspects of starting out as a writer, by and large to the amount of varying sources online. Let's look at it this way:

A novella is anything from 15,000 to 40,000 words. Most publishers of novellas actually expect them to be in the region of 25,000 to 35,000 words. It's more obviously a book than a short story, but not long enough to be a novel.

A novel is, technically speaking, anything longer than 40,000 words. (This is the adult market, by the way. Books for young readers have considerably less words.) In general, publishers look for work that's at least 65,000 words in length, but different genres look for different word/page counts.

A safe bet is to aim for about 90,000 words for a novel. It's on the lower end of expectations by a lot of publishers, but still long enough that no one will turn their nose up at it as being a "short book". (Take this from a guy who works in a bookshop - the reading public expect shorter books to be cheaper, when that's very rarely the case.) Keep in mind, some books you'll see on the shelves are near or beyond the half-million word mark.

It really does come down to one thing: how long is the story you want to tell?

There's no point writing a longer book for the sake of writing a long book. It will become painfully obvious that you're writing just to add words, and most publishers would require you to cut out anything like that before publication. Write the book you want to write, and see how long it ends up being afterwards. If you want to write a long book, then make sure you have the story to back up your aspirations.

For a better idea of how long other books are, I'll point you in the direction of this website:

But what about non-fiction?

Typically, non-fiction books are shorter than fiction (though, again, it depends on how much has to be said on a topic.) To put it simply: depending on the field you're writing in, your book could be extremely long (History books tend to be quite long) or short (short for a novel, typically looking at some health or relationship books.) Books at about 50,000 words are common - shorter still when they're from dedicated ebook publishers - but they tend to target a more niche market.

The best thing to do is to consider how much you have to say on a topic, and write the best book you can. Plan it in detail, do your research, and let the word count figure itself out.

About 25 Ways to Beat Writer's Block:

Have you ever struggled with writer’s block? Have you sat at your desk, looking at your work in progress, wondering what to do with a character who just won’t budge, or a poem that just won’t take form, or an article that just won’t work for you? Have you ever joined thousands of authors in the search for a way to beat writer’s block? 

From the author of Planning Before Writing comes a solution to the problem of writer’s block: 25 ways to tackle one of the biggest issues facing writers, each with an exercise to help you to develop as an author and improve your writing skills. 

With exercises to suit every writer, and drawing on over ten years’ experience in the craft, 25 Ways to Beat Writer’s Block is a must-have reference for your collection.

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