Word Count Woes

“How long is your book?”

I get that question a lot from non-writer friends. My answer 61,000 words.

“But how long is that?”

I have to explain my answer. I even have to explain this to my husband over and over. Readers measure books in pages.

“How many pages is that?

On average a page is estimated to be 375 words, but if you have dialogue the cane really offset your page count. Characters talk just like we do.

“Really?” You ask.


I tilt my head and raise one eyebrow. “Really.”

I have entire pages of dialogue and an estimate of 163 pages sounds wildly off to me.

[Runs over to *SCRIVENER* (aflink) and asks it to generate a novel.]  This “compile” gave me 398 pages.

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“So you’re just about done?”

I look away.


Each genre has its own word count guidelines. Literary fiction is going to have a different and much lower count than fantasy. The reasoning is that readers in each genre have varying expectations. Let’s face it, no one wants to be trapped in my head (literary fiction) for much more that 50K words.

Contemporary fiction is much closer to 50,000 words than high fantasy. Take a guess on which I write. High fantasy readers actually want longer books, but not because they are snobs or want a high page per dollar spent ratio. they want to see the author create a world full of wonderful things like dragons, unicorns, and castles.

Literary fiction authors leave things to the reader to fill in, but fantasy readers require detailed descriptions using all five senses (bonus points if you can add in senses beyond the standard set).

It takes way more words to create a new race of creatures, give them a culture, and place them in a world than it would for me to describe Chicago with a character like myself.


I’m actually freaking out a bit about my low count since I was aiming for 90,000 words and at most I will be done in 5-10k words. I cut out the original chapters 4-10 (34K words) because it was really slow. The first draft was 180K words. I split it into 2 stories. Once I removed a few plot points (and locations and 40 secondary characters) the arcs are pretty concise.

I hope my alpha and beta readers can help me make this a tad longer!

How are you on word count?

Do you have to cut or add on you revisions?  Are you close to your genre guidelines?

If you aren’t a writer, do these word count guides come as a surprise?

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