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When you ask for an ideal word count for your manuscript, the first response you are going  to get is “what genre?”. The length you should aim for varies depending on exactly what you are writing and even then, it is flexible. The problem I’ve found is that no two sources ever seem to agree on the ideal length, and it’s also very hard to find a place where all the genres are listed together.

So, for your convenience, I have scoured the internet and all of my “how to write a book” books, and come up with a generic list to help you. I have a few comments on this, but first, lets get down to brass tacks. In this list, “Min” is the shortest length I saw recommended anywhere, “Max” is the longest and “av” is the average. So hit ctrl-F and find your genre below.

Adult…

High/Traditional Fantasy: Min 90,000     Max 150,000     Av 115,000

Contemporary Fantasy: Min 90,000         Max 100,000     Av 95,000

Urban Fantasy: Min 90,000          Max 100,000     Av 95,000

Romance: Min 40,000     Max 100,000     Av 85,000

Paranormal Romance: Min 85,000            Max 100,000     Av 90,000

Paranormal: Min 75,000                Max 95,000        Av 85,000

Horror: Min 80,000          Max 100,000     Av 90,000

Sci-Fi: Min 90,000             Max 125,000     Av 115,000

Hard Sci-Fi: Min 90,000  Max 110,000     Av 100,000

Space Opera: Min 90,000              Max 120,000     Av 105,000

Romantic Sci-Fi: Min 85,000        Max 100,000     Av 95,000

Chic-lit: Min 80,000         Max 100,000     Av 90,000

Westerns: Min 50,000    Max 80,000        Av 65,000

Memoir/Autobiography: Min 70,000       Max 100,000     Av 85,000

Epics: Min 100,000           Max ???              Av 110,000

Women’s Fiction: Min 80,000     Max 110,000     Av 100,000

Crime: Min 90,000           Max 100,000     Av 95,000

Thrillers/Mysteries: Min 70,000                Max 100,000     Av 80,000

Historical: Min 100,000  Max 120,000     Av 105,000

New Adult Fiction: Min 60,000    Max 85,000        Av 70,000

Non-Fiction: Min 70,000               Max 110,000     Av 90,000

Generic Commercial Fiction: Min 50,000               Max 120,000     Av 70,000

New Weird: Min 85,000                Max 110,000     Av 95,000

Comic Fantasy: Min 80,000          Max 100,000     Av 95,000

Literary Fiction: Min 40,000         Max 120,000     Av 80,000

Short Stories: Min 1000 Max 20,000        Av 8,000

Flash Fiction: Min 100    Max 500              Av 300

Children…

YA: Min 40,000  Max 88,000         Av 70,000

Middle Grade: Min 20,000           Max 55,000        Av 35,000

Picture Books: Standard 30-32 pages Min 500     Max 700              Av 600

Phew! There you have it. If I missed anything, please drop a comment and let me know.

I should say that manuscript length is not something which is set in stone, but be cautious if you find yourself straying too far towards either end of your bracket as some literary agents or publishers may just use it as an excuse to reject you. In fact, in my search for this information, I discovered that an excess word count is a very common problem for aspiring writers who are pitching their work. Sometimes it can seem like it’s impossible to cut anything more, but you can always find a way. Be ruthless. You may have to cut out a whole side plot or character arc, but that could be just what the book needs. That said, it’s just as bad to not write enough although, strangely, this seems to be a less common problem.

Word count is particularly treacherous for those writing children’s fiction as the recommended length seems to run on a sliding scale depending on the exact age demographic. I suggest looking at the word counts of similar books but remember, sequels are almost always longer than a debut. So focus your search on authors who are in a similar position in their career and in their book series to you.

If you found this list useful, please click like and follow. And join me again next week when I will be talking about the basics of autobiography.

Feature Image by Keith Williamson

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