Word Counts in Large Amounts

by Diana Sousa
Paper Crane by ADrawer4ever

My latest worries (which my inner editor keeps taunting me about at the worst times) are about word count. Is this chapter too short? Are things happening too soon? Should I add more random words here? Can I even write a long book, or is that impossible for me?

So I started to do a bit of research, which I think might be worth sharing. I’ve seen a lot of questions about word counts, and if this can help even just one person I’ll be glad. Even if that person is me. Because I really shouldn’t be worried about this.

Some great people have said it better than I ever could here and here. But I wanted some FACTS. Facts are good to calm silly brains. This will focus mostly on YA since that’s what I write, but I can update it with other categories if anyone wants.

So, according to those links YA books should be around 55k to 75k words. If you are writing science-fiction or fantasy, this could go a bit higher (85k, perhaps even 90k); but anything higher than 100k and you might raise some red flags. These are safe numbers for debut authors, but there are always exceptions. Lately I’ve seen higher word counts even when it’s the writer’s first published book. If you’re an established writer, or if you’re writing sequels, more often than not you’re allowed to disregard this.

And now some shiny numbers:

Debut Authors/Books:

– Boy Meets Boy, by David Levithan – 51,8k (Contemporary)
– Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher – 62,5k (Contemporary)
– Mexican WhiteBoy, by Matt de la Pena – 65,7k (Sports)
– Ash, by Malinda Lo – 67k (Fantasy)
– Jackaby, by William Ritter – 67,2k (Historical Paranormal)
– Looking for Alaska, by John Green – 69k (Contemporary)
– The Key to the Golden Firebird, by Maureen Johnson – 70k (Contemporary)
– Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo – 81k (Fantasy)
– Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins – 81,1k (Contemporary)
– Otherbound, by Corinne Duyvis – 86,7k (Fantasy)
– Cinder, by Marissa Meyer – 86,7k (Science Fiction)
– A Great and Terrible Beauty, by Libba Bray – 95,6k (Paranormal)
– Pantomime, by Laura Lam – 100,5k (Fantasy)
– Divergent, by Veronica Roth – 105k (Science Fiction)
– The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern – 121k (Fantasy)

Average – 75k

Science Fiction / Fantasy average – 93k

Authors with previous books:

– 13 Little Blue Envelopes, by Maureen Johnson – 63k (Contemporary)
– Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, by Benjamin Saenz – 65,5k (Contemporary)
– The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green – 65,7k (Contemporary)
– Every Day, by David Levithan – 74,6k (Magical Realism)
– Isla and the Happily Ever After, by Stephanie Perkins – 78,5k (Contemporary)
– Howl’s Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones – 75,4k (Fantasy)
– Blue Lily, Lily Blue, by Maggie Stiefvater – 91,7k (Fantasy)
– The Name of the Star, by Maureen Johnson – 92k (Paranormal)
– Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein – 92,2k (Historical)
– Adaptation, by Malinda Lo – 94,7k (Science Fiction)
– Shadowplay, by Laura Lam – 99,5k (Fantasy)
– We Were Here, by Matt de la Pena – 105k (Contemporary)
– The 5th Wave, by Rick Yancey – 117k (Science Fiction)
– Cress, by Marissa Meyer – 138,2k (Science Fiction)
– The Diviners, by Libba Bray – 157k (Paranormal)

Average – 94k

Science Fiction / Fantasy average – 108k

Conclusion: Too many numbers, and I don’t know what I’m doing.

No, actually, as everyone can see YA has a lot of flexibility towards word count, but it tends to be higher rather than lower. There are always exceptions, of course (“We Were Liars” by E. Lockhart is 50k, “If I Stay” by Gayle Forman is 49,6k, “Artemis Fowl”, by Eoin Colfer is 56,7k) but it seems these days books tend to be longer.

I knew I wasn’t going to reach a proper conclusion with this, I just wanted to analyze some numbers and see if that would help me have less questions. And it did. It seems I should be aiming a bit higher with my word count, since I write mostly fantasy and science-fiction. Try and be the rule instead of the exception kind of thing.

But what I should be doing, actually, is writing. If I don’t get the writing done, I won’t have any word count to worry about. At least now I have some answers, and I know I can get there. Agents and editors are also excellent people that can help you raise that word count if that’s needed, and beta readers will also tell you if the book needs to be longer or not. What’s important is the story, and the pace it needs, not what is expected as a general rule.

So I should focus on that, on putting the words on paper. Stop worrying so much. Stop using these worries as a way to procrastinate (ahah, as if *cough*). Get the story out, worry about the rest later.

So I’m going to do that now. I’ll see you when my next worry comes along ;)