Blatherings…and what not…

Lately, I’ve been thinking about novels—their lengths, that is. That’s right: word count. I suppose every writer has struggled with word count problems in the past. You see, today there are very specific classifications for how many words makes a novel. There are also many disagreements, and almost everyone voices their opinions, even if they’re not welcome—which, in many cases, they’re not.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America specify in this way:

Novels — over 40,000 words
Novellas — 17,500 to 40,000 words
Novelettes — 7,500 to 17,500 words
Short Stories — under 7,500 words

That seems rather straightforward. But, wait! Here is another classification from another source!

Very Short Stories — under 2,500 words
Short Stories — 2,500 to 7,500 words
Novelettes — 7,500 to 20,000 words
Novellas — 20,000 to 50,000 words
Novels — 70,000 to 90,000 words

Ah, now we begin to see the pain and horror! What should we make of this? That novels cannot be above 90,000 words? Hmm… I don’t think so. (War and Peace and Les Misérables are just two examples that clock in well above 90k—well above.)

This is what I have to say: Write the story you were given, not a word more, not a word less.

Here are a few well-known novels and their lengths for your inspection:

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury — 46,118 words

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde — 78,462 words

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne — 63,604 words

So, here’s the deal. Depending on what type of novel you are writing (children, YA, Sci-Fi…) there are word count ranges that are ideal. In fact, there are ideal ranges for every genre. However, that being said, don’t worry about word count to such an extent that you begin to obsess over it—like I do. (Actually, it’s more than an obsession for me. Any novel I come across I think, “Wonder how many words it is?”)

As usual, at the end of Blatherings, I would like to share a photo. Hope you enjoy.

dreamstime_14617601

~ Prof VJ (Interestingly enough, that shrub–or whatever you want to call it–reminds me of me.)

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4 Responses to “Blatherings…and what not…”


  1. 1 L. Marie May 31, 2013 at 15:42

    The word count seems to change, depending on the publisher. A few years back, I read manuscripts for a publisher. Adult fiction had to be 75,000 at a minimum. YA could be less. But with the advent of shorter ebooks that word count might have changed.

    J. K. Rowling’s fifth Harry Potter ws 256,000 words. A publisher probably wouldn’t go in that direction with a new writer.

    I’ve seen many YA books well over 450 pages. Some around 500-600 pages. The authors who penned them already were bestsellers.

    • 2 Professor VJ Duke May 31, 2013 at 23:10

      That’s definitely interesting, L. I suppose it’s all just personal preference…

  2. 3 Bob Lee May 30, 2013 at 02:16

    This is rather interesting. Do publishers actually categorize in this way? It would explain why many books have ramblings of nothings or “Blatherings … and what not” :)

    • 4 Professor VJ Duke May 30, 2013 at 12:31

      Hi Bob!

      Yes, this is for real. You are right on. Actually, ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ was supposed to be at least 100k words. That’s what the editor wanted. But Wilde struggled, only managing 78k. Interestingly, my brother has told me that the middle of the book is filled with nothingness or “Blatherings and what not!” Wilde definitely had a hard time! :)


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