Book Satisfaction: The Word Count

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Does the satisfaction of a book come from its length? Or is it more about its content?

As we think further into what kind of book we’d like to write about, selecting the genre and type, you might be thinking about how long you’d like your book to be. Some writers don’t think about that (our pantsers) and go on measuring with their hearts, flowing where the words take them. Whereas, goal setters (our plotters), might think about it.

The answer is…there’s no right answer. It’s wherever your comfortability lies. There is no designated length you have to abide by in order to be a successful writer. This is your story, you set the rules.

Chapters

Each chapter should satisfy what’s happening in that scene. As each chapter should be propelling the story forward with something transpiring for your character to either solve or overcome in order to further reach their goal. And the ending of each chapter should leave your reader wanting to know what comes next.

On the average, a chapter may comfortably be anywhere between 1500 – 5000 words. The “ideal” word count is considered to be 3000 – 4000. Or so I’ve heard.

But never be discouraged because some chapters just might be shorter than others. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Be Italian and measure your words like garlic—there is no right or wrong.

Sometimes, you just need a brief exchange of dialogue to inch it along. Or a chapter might be laden with detail pertaining to the setting to really make them feel like they’re there with the character.

Just remember, it’s not the word count per chapter that matters, it’s satisfying your chapter/scene.

Writing is supposed to be a leisure, a good time. There is no need to stress yourself out over what others are thinking/doing.

You know that saying, “Keeping up with the Jones’s”?

Who cares if their lawn is lush green? For all you know, it could be AstroTurf. So don’t worry if yours isn’t that exact shade, or that your book isn’t as long as your writing friend’s. Your book isn’t theirs.

So, let’s stop comparing ourselves and just enjoy the process. Writing is meant to be a pleasure, not a stressor.

The Book Itself

Ask yourself what kind of book you’d like to write. A novelette? Novella? Short Story? Or are we going straight for the novel itself?

Consider these estimates:

TypeWord Count (approx.)
Short Story1,000 – 7,500
Novelette7,500 – 1,700
Novella1,700 – 40,000
Novel40,000 +

For fun, let’s take a peek at the ultimate word count of some famous works:

TypeBook, AuthorWord Count
Short StoryThe Masque of the Red Death, Edgar Allen Poe2,414
NoveletteThe Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson13,500
NovellaOf Mice & Men, John Steinbeck29,160
NovelHarry Potter & the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling190,858

However, if you’re the kind of writer who looks for guidelines, consider aiming to satisfy while writing:

  • You.
  • Your Genre.
  • Your Target Audience.

Remember when I said, write for you and polish for them? Same rules apply. But also, be realistic. Think about what is going to better serve you, as an author, as well as your book. Do not disservice your novel by drowning it with detail just to meet a lengthy word count goal. In the circumstance of professional editing, those chewable words may just be trimmed down anyway. You also run the risk of turning off or losing your reader by overusing words.

Quality over Quantity. All day. Every day.

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