NaNoWriMo Prep: Word Count Comfort

NaNo 2015 Banner

Is 50,000 words really a novel?

There are some out there *points at self* who are concerned with the novel produced through the annual November writing marathon in terms of its word count–50,000 words is, in my view, kinda short in terms of being a novel.

But is it really?

I gathered some word count totals from the greats–from classics to modern hits–to give perspective about novel length. Having 100,000 words won’t guarantee a hit anymore than any other tip or trick. A well-written novel is precisely that, no matter the length (with the foundation resting between 40,000-50,000 words, based on a few sources I’ve looked into).

To be honest, some of my favorite novels are, by today’s standards, short.

When you research your novel’s genre, keep in mind the average word count of successful and well-loved novels. YA novels tend to run around 80,000 – 100,000 words, whereas kid-lit is around 30,000-50,000, and sometimes less. Literary novels tend to break past the 100,000 mark (or dance around it in either direction). High fantasy tends to run in the 100,000s, as most of us well know (lookin’ at you, GRRM).

Where does your novel fall? If your word count doesn’t fit into this scheme, analyze why it doesn’t–and whether or not you need to tweak. Odds are, your story may need some shifts in plot, and who knows–maybe your story is a series.

Here’s a list of greats (and here’s another) that dance around the 50,000 mark. I hope this encourages you as you prep for NaNoWriMo!

  • Alice Walker’s The Color Purple –  66,556 words
  • Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises – 67,707 words
  • Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five – 49,459 words <3<3<3
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter – 63,604 words <3<3<3
  • Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 – 46,118 words <3<3<3
  • JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – 77,325 words <3<3<3
  • C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – 36,363 words <3<3<3
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby – 47,094 words <3<3<3
  • S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders – 48,523 words
  • Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty – 59,635 words
  • William Golding’s The Lord of the Flies – 59,900 words
  • John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars – 67,203 words


Writer’s Type has a page here about word counts for novels and short stories.

Leave a Comment