Writing Fiction And Story Length: How Many Words?

Writing Fiction And Story Length: How Many Words?

You’re writing fiction. You want to know how much to write… How many pages? I often get questions about length for novels, novellas and short stories, so it’s worth looking at this.

I find “pages” confusing, because print books’ pages can have huge variations in formatting. And of course, in ebooks there’s Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count (KENPC), which can be considerably different from the number of your novel’s pages that you estimated.

So let’s focus on how many words in fiction. When it comes to length, it’s easer when you count words.

Writing fiction and length: it depends…

Writing fiction and length: it depends

We talked about how many scenes you need this post, Writing Short Stories: How Many Scenes Do You Need?

Over the years, for my own rule of thumb, I’ve estimated novels to be somewhere between 50,000 and 90,000 words. That said, a lot depends on the genre.

For example, Science Fiction and Fantasy novels tend to be longer. It’s all that world-building. 🙂

In the Romance genre, word counts vary widely. Contemporary Romances (many are at 50,000 to 60,000 words) tend to be shorter than Historical Romances, for example, which may come in at 120,000 words. Again, with the historicals, it’s the world-building.

In today’s world, length doesn’t matter

How long or short your fiction happens to be doesn’t matter in today’s world. No one’s chopping down forests of trees for your Kindle ebooks, after all. KENPC may or may not matter to you, again, depending on the genre in which you write.

That said, readers have expectations. So let’s say that you’re writing in a genre which is new to you. How do you know how many words to write?

Writing in a new-to-you genre: guesstimating your word count

Here’s what I’d do, and what I suggest to my students.

  1. Read in the genre, and make a note of the word count. Look at the top sellers in that genre. That’s usually an efficient guide to readers’ expectations.
  2. Ask. Check with authors of that genre. You’ll find these authors in Facebook groups, as well as mailing lists. Ask what word counts they use.

How to fix it if your novel’s way under the word count for the genre

Another popular question: what if your novel’s too short? 🙂

Let’s say that you’re writing a historical romance with paranormal elements. You’re aiming for 100,000 words, but you’re at the mid-point with its major plot twist, and you realize… you’ve only written 30,000 words. At that rate, you’ll finish at 60,000 words.

You’ve got choices:

  • Accept it. This is the length for this novel. That’s perfectly fine. It’s completely up to you — no one’s making any rules, when you’re self-publishing, other than the ones you make for yourself;
  • Slip in a sub-plot or two. I’d insert at least one sub-plot, and I’d juice up a couple of minor characters. Who knows? You might decide to write a series.

There are no rules when you’re writing fiction today, especially if you’re self-publishing; there are only reader expectations. Your fiction’s length is what you decide it will be.

Have fun. 🙂

Yes, You’re Creative: How To Unlock Your Imagination And Build The Writing Career Of Your Dreams

Yes, You’re Creative: How To Unlock Your Imagination And Build The Writing Career Of Your Dreams

eBook: $5.99
In this book we'll aim to increase your creativity to unlock your imagination and build the writing career of your dreams. More info →
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Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

$4.99
Author:
Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 4
Genre: Writing
Tag: writing fiction
You want to write a novel. Perhaps you can't get started. Or maybe you got started, and then you stopped.You need a plan, broken down into easy steps. This program began as a 30-day challenge which I organized for readers in 2010. Hundreds of writers joined the challenge and completed it. They wrote novels. More info →

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Fiction Writing: The Most Popular Posts In 2017

Fiction Writing: The Most Popular Posts In 2017

I started this blog in 2007 — how time flies, to coin a cliche. Back in 2007, although fiction writing was popular, it took the birth of the Kindle to truly expand authors’ interest.

Authors realized that the gatekeepers were gone. For the first time in history, authors could sell their novels directly to readers.

Why is fiction writing so popular?

By 2012, self-publishing had truly arrived. On the Kindle store, fiction outsells nonfiction by a wide margin, so I expected that the blog’s most popular posts in 2017 would be about writing fiction.

A comforting thought: you don’t have to be a brilliant writer to sell fiction. If you tell a good story, readers will read.

Let’s look at the four most popular posts — check them out, if you haven’t read them.

1. Basic Short Story Template: Keep It Simple!

I wrote the most popular post, Basic Short Story Template: Keep It Simple! in 2014. It’s been updated frequently.

If you haven’t discovered writing short stories as a promotional tool, check out the post, and write some short stories. They’re a super-simple way to guide readers to your novels.

2. Fiction Writing Tips for Beginners: Super-Easy Outlines

Outlines tend to stymie fiction authors, so Fiction Writing Tips for Beginners: Super-Easy Outlines, published at the start of 2017, has been popular.

Words to live by when writing fiction:

Fiction is all about emotion. No emotion? You’ve got nothing. Your idea, no matter how wonderful, will fizzle out.

3. Writing Short Stories: How Many Scenes Do You Need?

Another post from 2014: Writing Short Stories: How Many Scenes Do You Need? has been hugely popular.

One of the first things you think about when you’re writing fiction is — how long is this? Then you (if you’re like me) track your word count obsessively, because you know that your milestones determine the success or otherwise of a piece of fiction.

4. New Novelist: Write A Selling Novel With One Simple Strategy

I’m thrilled that this post, New Novelist: Write A Selling Novel With One Simple Strategy, is so popular.

To write novels which sell, every novel:

… must have a point. All the screaming excitement of your novel can’t and won’t make up for it if there’s no point.

Please use the strategy I outline in that post. The strategy won’t guarantee a bestseller, but you have no hope of selling if your novel doesn’t have a point.

Enjoy the posts. 🙂

Heart To Heart: Romance Writing For Beginners

Heart To Heart: Romance Writing For Beginners

eBook: $5.99
Author:
Series: Romance Writing, Book 1
Genre: Writing
Tag: writing fiction
Love makes the world go round, and of all the genres in fiction, romance, with its many sub-genres, is the most popular. More info →
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More Heart To Heart: Write Hot-Selling Romance Fiction

More Heart To Heart: Write Hot-Selling Romance Fiction

eBook: $5.99
Author:
Series: Romance Writing, Book 2
Genre: Writing
Tag: writing fiction
I adore writing romance fiction, and now you can write romance too. More info →
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Self-Publishing Profits: Sell Your Books From Your Own Website

Self-Publishing Profits: Sell Your Books From Your Own Website

Love self-publishing? Many authors do, because they have complete freedom… or so they imagine. However, over the past year or two, authors have been discovering that they have less freedom than they thought.

Although self-publishing frees you from the middle-men — literary agents and publishing houses — the major book retailers nevertheless control your fortunes.

Changes in Amazon’s algorithm, scammers targeting Amazon, Facebook’s recent changes… more authors are looking to sell their books from their own websites so that they can retain more of the profits.

Do the benefits of “do it yourself” self-publishing outweigh the hassles? Of course, that depends on where you are in your self-publishing journey.

If you’re a new author, uploading your new novel to Amazon is a major feat. On the other hand, if you’ve been publishing for a while, you know that the self-publishing process cedes control. You have zero idea who’s buying your books, for example. The retailers keep the data.

Let’s look at some of the benefits of selling your books from your own website.

Self-publishing: the benefits of selling from your own website

The benefits of self-publishing from your own website as well as the big online book retailers include:

  • You keep more of the profits (you’ll keep 90% of the profits, compared to at best, 70% if you sell through a retailer);
  • Data: you know who your readers are. You have their email addresses, so you can contact them directly and build a loyal following;
  • It’s a chance to make friends with readers, ask them questions, reward them, and build sales overall;
  • Diversification can help to insulate your sales from algorithm changes.

A quick check: is your ebook in KDP Select?

Before we talk about the tools you can use to sell from your own website, we need to mention KDP Select. Be aware that once an ebook is enrolled in Select, you’re giving Amazon a three-month exclusive. So before you sell an ebook from your own website, do make certain that its term in Select has expired.

Tools: selling your books from your own website is easier than you think

Perhaps you’ve been putting off selling your books from your own website because it’s a hassle. You need a payment processor, and a delivery system. You also need a way to add your buyers’ email addresses to your email lists.

While there are dozens of tools you can use to sell your books (in various formats, whether ebooks, print, or audio) two tools have become hugely popular with the self-publishing crowd: BookFunnel and Gumroad.

(Disclosure: I don’t currently use either of these tools. However, I have heard good things about them, and aim to use them going forward. PLEASE make sure that you read ALL the Help files, before you use any tool.)

BookFunnel: an ebook delivery system for freebies, review copies etc.

BookFunnel provides an easy way for you to deliver freebies to readers, and add their email addresses to your mailing lists. You can use BookFunnel to deliver exclusive promotions, ARCs, review copies — you’re limited only by your imagination.

The tool collects reader emails for you, which you can download as a CSV file. Alternatively, BookFunnel can be integrated directly with your mailing list provider.

Gumroad payment processor and delivery system: sell ebooks, audios, and print books

Gumroad has been around for years, and is packed with features.

You can integrate Gumroad with your website easily. Either link directly to a product’s page on Gumroad, or use widgets, to integrate Gumroad with WordPress, Squarespace, or Tumblr.

If you use the MyBookTable plugin for WordPress, just add the Gumroad Buy Button in the same way you’d add Amazon’s or Kobo’s button.

Should you sell your books from your own website?

Selling your books from your own website won’t make you instantly wealthy. Your sales are unlikely to outshine your sales on Amazon and elsewhere, at least in your first year or two.

Your biggest challenge, just as it is on the retailers, is visibility and discovery. You’ll need to promote your products, just as you already do.

However, the benefits are many, and if you’ve been grinding your teeth because of Facebook’s changes, selling from your own website at least puts you in control of some of your self-publishing fortunes.

Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

eBook: $5.99
I developed the tactics and strategies in this book to help myself. My students have found them essential to producing both fiction and nonfiction almost effortlessly. More info →
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Nonfiction Ebooks Goldmine: Write and Sell Nonfiction Ebooks In 24 Hours Or Less

Nonfiction Ebooks Goldmine: Write and Sell Nonfiction Ebooks In 24 Hours Or Less

$5.99
Author:
Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 5
Genre: Writing
You're a writer. You need to make money from your words. What if you could create AND sell a nonfiction book in just a day? More info →
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