How Long Should My Novel Be?
by Nicole Trilivas
When I was writing essays for university, my word counts would routinely come in under budget of the required length. Not severely so, but the essay with the 2,500 word-minimum would often cap out at 2,300 words. Instead of beefing it up, I’d submit the essay with 200 less words. I could have blathered on for another 200 words, but what was the point? I already said what I needed to say, and to add more words for more words sake, would ultimately make my essay say less.
I was never told to write more or chastised for missing the word count.
Mark Twain said, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” Often times, writing a shorter piece that has been boiled and pared down so that it’s pithy and sharp and succinct is the hardest thing to do.
So far my novels have been in the realm of 70,000 words. This is on the short side (most novels are 60k-110k). And I’ve thought about fluffing them up, but I’ve stopped myself because I do no want to repeat myself or add unimportant information for the sake of a word count. That’s why most authors will argue that book needs to be as long as it needs to be. (Such a frustrating answer, but true.)
That said, because my word count is so meager I need to make sure it’s not effecting my slash-and-burn editing. Will my use of the delete key be merciful because I cannot afford to cut too much? This is a valid fear that I must always be aware of. But usually if I have to ask myself, “Am I only leaving this part in because I don’t want cut down my word count?” I’ve inadvertently answered my own question and it gets deleted.
In the end, word counts are kinda BS, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be aware of them.