That, my friend, is an excellent question, and one I’ve asked myself many times. The simple answer is: however long it takes to tell your story. But what should I aim for? It all depends on what you’re writing and who your audience is. If you’re writing a children’s story it should be around 10,00 to 12,000 words. But you don’t have to chop down your story if you go over that. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is 76,944 words long, and it’s a bestseller. The older the audience, the longer your story can be. But can you be more specific? Yes, yes, fine. Here’s a basic guideline for story lengths.
Up to 100 words
This is called micro fiction. It’s pretty difficult to write a full story in 100 words so this isn’t done often. However, it can be a really good writing exercise. Some of the est creativity comes from having some boundaries.
100 to 1,000
This is called flash fiction. It’s usually found in magazines and is pretty easy to write and publish. Again, this is a really good way to stretch your writing muscles.
1,000 to 7,500
This is the regular short story and is also regularly found in magazines and anthologies. Personally, I love writing short stories. You can give your readers this burst of color and creativity and don’t have to spend that much time writing it. You can’t develop characters very much in a short story, but you can certainly have some fun plot.
7,500 to 20,000
This is called a novelette. This is harder to publish since it’s too long to be comfortably inserted into a magazine and too short to be considered a novel. It’s an excellent length for children’s books though. Many authors will put 3-4 Novelettes together in a compilation Novel. Sometimes they’ll do it with other authors, or just by themselves.
20,000 to 50,000
This is a novella. They’re prime length for the electronic publishing market, and also a really good way to first experiment with long form fiction. I’ve actually only written one novel, and three novellas. But novellas are also fun to read. I don’t have a ton of time to read, and I hate reading part of a book and setting it down for weeks. The solution? Novellas.
50,000 to 110,000
This is officially a novel. Most publishers prefer a minimum word count of around 70,000 words for a first novel, and some even hesitate for any work shorter than 80,000. A few of the fantasy publishers I’ve looked at want a minimum of 90,000. The word count is also often determined by the genre. Fantasy tends to be longer, while romance novels are a bit shorter.
This is called an epic. Victor Hugo, I’m looking at you. If your story is over 110,000 words, you might want to consider splitting it up into a trilogy since super long books are hard to publish. Unless you’re George R.R. Martin and have a well-established readership.
Hopefully this gives you guys a better gauge on how long your story should be! Later pargas.