Word count is something I’ve heard people asking about quite a bit on forums. Writers are generally concerned about how long their book should be prior to submission to an agent or publisher.
For most books, I can tell you that any word count over 100,000 is dead on arrival. You’d probably want to shoot for somewhere between 50,000 and 70,000 words…give or take depending on what genera you’re writing.
However, for Novellas, the math is a little different. That is because Novellas have a somewhat narrower word count limit.
Generally speaking, wikipedia states that a novel is anything above 40,000 words. A novella is between 17,000 and 40,000 words. Of course, you couldn’t really call a 38,000 word piece a novella, as I’m certain few publishers would take it on those grounds.
Therefore, an ideal novella length should be somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 words.
That said, my last novella, Journeymen of the Sun, had a rough word count of around 25,000 words. That’s about a mid range novella and it fits nicely into the sweet spot.
If you want a rough estimate on word count for different classes of books, look no further than wikipedia…
If you’re wondering how to write a novella and have it fit neatly into that 20,000 – 30,000 word range, I have some tips that worked for me and I believe they are universally helpful to all kinds of writers…
Outline the Story Beforehand:
Outlining your plot helps you break up the book into smaller sub-sections. It isn’t necessary to designate by chapter, but think of the each major plot element like a long essay.
Don’t be Afraid to Gut It:
You may decide that there are one or more nonessential chapters that can be removed. If removing these chapters places the word count in a favorable range, then by all means, go for it.
Avoid Side Quests:
One thing about Novellas is that your characters have very little room for side adventures. While fun and interesting to the reader, it eats up your word count like crazy.
Think About a Book Series:
If you decide that there is no way to end your book under the length and you still want a novella, consider “ending” it at some point and then continuing the story in another novella. However, try to provide some degree of closure to your readers. After all, you want them to feel like they read a book…and not a promo or a preview.
Finally, Write Essays and Short Stories:
It takes a lot of practice to write within a word count range. The above techniques are helpers, but you should only have to use them as a last resort.