Topic: Novella vs novel lengths

I've been googling book lengths recently as I try to decide if I want to reduce my trilogy of three books into three novella-length parts of one big book because it's taking too long to research/write three books. I found some interesting numbers and am curious to know if these seem correct:

- typical range for a novel is 80K - 100K words
- typical range for a thriller (my genre) is 70K - 90K words
- over 110K is considered too long for a work of fiction (says who?)
- the range for a novella is 20K - 40K words

There's no way I could squeeze my entire story into three 40K novellas (120K words total) since the first draft of book one is likely to be 100K - 125K words. It would need massive trimming just to cut the word count in half.

For comparison, here are some specific numbers:

- Dune is 188K words, divided into three parts, or ~60K words per part (compare to the novella range above)
- The Lord of the Rings books range from 137K - 188K words, averaging 160K each
- The Harry Potter books range from 77K - 257K words, averaging about 155K each
- Dan Brown's Angels & Demons is an estimated 155K - 185K words (a Catholic thriller, like mine).

I suppose one option is to squeeze parts two and three of my story into a book 2, but the Bible's Book of Revelation (on which my story is based) is really only starting to roll around the end of my book one.

Since I will almost certainly self-publish, I could throw maximum word limits out the window, but publishing costs (e.g., editing and printing) go up with wordcount, and there's only so much you can charge if all the books next to yours on Amazon are selling for less.

Re: Novella vs novel lengths

- Dune is 188K words, divided into three parts, or ~60K words per part (compare to the novella range above)

Dune was too long. Could you cut the Stilgar sections?

- The Lord of the Rings books range from 137K - 188K words, averaging 160K each

Too long. Cut the Bombadill dance

- The Harry Potter books range from 77K - 257K words, averaging about 155K each

Just looking at those thick tomes made me sneeze. btw what happened to the weird living car and why isn't it in the final battle?

- Dan Brown's Angels & Demons is an estimated 155K - 185K words (a Catholic thriller, like mine).

Cut 30k words by not repeating each character's profession and attributes in each paragraph
https://onehundredpages.wordpress.com/2 … dan-brown/

3 (edited by Dirk B. 2022-02-09 04:21:06)

Re: Novella vs novel lengths

If I can trim my first draft of book one by a third, that would get it down to about 75K words. Multiply that by three for the three parts and it's only 20% bigger than Dune or Fellowship of the Ring, and still substantially shorter than the longest Harry Potter book. At least my readers would be getting their money's worth.

Re: Novella vs novel lengths

Hello.

One concern of mine as an unpublished author (in the traditional world, anyway) was the 129K word count for Sister Bevenlee and Mother of Pox. I learned from an actual agent that for a fantasy novel, that's actually within the acceptable limits. I worried Mother of Draglins would be too short for a fantasy novel as at first glance it clocked in at around 79K words. It's since hit the 91K word mark, so no worries there.

The beauty of self-publishing is that word counts can go out the window. Publish what story you want at whatever length covers the story. You aren't beholden to anyone but your fans. Give them a complete story and they'll flip the pages willingly. You may have to initially gauge the pricing, but you'll learn what works through trial and error.

So I wouldn't stress at all about word counts if you don't plan on seeking traditional publication. I've looked at doing that and decided it's not for me, as it comes with expectations and obligations I do not wish to participate in. My goal now is to get through my backlog of revisions, then focus on new material. My word counts for some of that new material will be all over the place, from short stories to short novellas. And since I'll be at the helm, word counts aren't much of a concern.

Re: Novella vs novel lengths

Seabrass has cut right to the heart of the matter. If your readers are engaged and want to keep turning the pages, the length isn't an issue. Author Brandon Sanderson, TOR's fantasy ace, writes his novels well above the 300k word count. In fact, his debut novel taken by TOR was around a 400k word count.

I'm trying to remember an old Chinese proverb that maybe fits here, regarding those who care about the word count limit and those who don't—
The man threw the pearls out and happily took the empty box home.

Re: Novella vs novel lengths

One thing to consider if your shopping around for a publisher, many have specific word count requirements for unknown authors, usually around 99K.

Re: Novella vs novel lengths

Thanks, Randy. Another good reason to self-publish. Naturally, the up front costs for editing a 200K-word novel are double what they would be for a typical 100K novel. Not cheap.

Re: Novella vs novel lengths

Dirk B. wrote:

Thanks, Randy. Another good reason to self-publish. Naturally, the up front costs for editing a 200K-word novel are double what they would be for a typical 100K novel. Not cheap.

Or you could make it a two-volume series.:)

Re: Novella vs novel lengths

Dirk - I disagree with "throwing out the window" word-count guidelines if you self-publish. It's not just publishers who set the guidelines; readers expect a certain length of book according to genre. With big names, though, you can throw them out the window. Grisham writes short and long novels. DeMille and Iles have had tomes published in the thriller genre. Ditto Turow.

Is Saving Connor the one that's 125K words? You could probably trim that down to make it under a 100K. Assuming your other two books in the series are of similar length, why would you want to drastically cut them down to novella size? A three-novel series makes sense to me.

Re: Novella vs novel lengths

Saving Connor (now The Rise of Connor) has become painful to write because it's taking so long. I'm only 2/3 of the way through the first draft. At the rate I'm going, it could take fifteen years to write the full trilogy. I'll be sick of the story long before then. In the meantime, my other trilogy languishes. I'm leaning heavily toward making both stories into long three-part books. That will allow me to finish both and move on to something new before I'm ready for a care home. Of the two trilogies, Rise of Connor will definitely need sequels (i.e., I'd rather not abandon it after one book, which is another option).

Re: Novella vs novel lengths

Saving Connor requires meticulous research for almost every scene. I wouldn't worry about the time to write.
Your other trilogy should come out much faster

Re: Novella vs novel lengths

Guidelines are just that, guidelines, much like all rules of writing for publication. Agents/publishers will tell you if the story is too long or in some instances too short. I would not waste time worrying about the number of words until an agent/publisher told me to do so. Each category has guideline ranges to serve as a, you know, guideline. If you go beyond a novella range, then you merely have a novel or vice versa. I've read guidelines which want more than 100,000 words for a novel and many do, both oldies and newbies. Dune just happens to be the best novel I've ever read and didn't for a second seem too long. Folks are too hung up on numbers which will sort themselves out during the publishing process. It the project isn't finished, the last thing you need to worry about is the length. Just the way I see it. Take care. Vern

13 (edited by dagny 2022-02-10 06:13:07)

Re: Novella vs novel lengths

Saving Connor (now The Rise of Connor) has become painful to write because it's taking so long.
Dirk--
I am assuming from what Kdot said, it's because of the research involved. When I research a subject to write about, I always think of what the writer in Stephen King's Bag of Bones told his research assistant:

“Give me just enough information so that I can lie convincingly.” ― Stephen King.

It has helped me keep my sanity more than once. Also if you haven't read Bag of Bones, I highly recommend it not only for the story but for all the wisdom King imparts about writing, the writing experience and what living an author's life means.

dags smile
PS before you tell me you don't have time to read, King also said this:

“If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

smile

Re: Novella vs novel lengths

Thanks, Dagny, but the level of research I'm doing is necessary to give fairly realistic settings and an accurate portrayal of Christianity and Catholicism. Given that Catholics are a major part of my target audience, there's no faking it. You either get it right or it will stand out like glaring errors, of which I've already made several. And given that my memory is s--t, I frequently have to re-research the same information more than once. Besides, the research is not the only thing that's dragging me down. I'm writing in genres that I've never done before, which has led to a number of dead ends, requiring me to rewrite many chapters. Combine that with the fact that I only write part-time, and I'm left looking for a way to scale back my two projects. Converting both trilogies into single, long books is the best way forward. I'd rather struggle to trim long stories than figure out how to stretch short ones. Besides, neither resulting book will be outrageously long. This isn't War & Peace even though the writing process feels like it. :-)

Re: Novella vs novel lengths

I'm sorry that you might cut back. I really enjoy your writing and your thoroughness is very impressive. However, you know your limitations. It's easy for me to say keep plowing ahead.

Re: Novella vs novel lengths

I plan to finish the first draft before making any major changes. That way I'll have a relatively stable draft as the basis for whatever I do next.

Re: Novella vs novel lengths

This article popped up in my news feed. It has many suggested lengths for novels.
https://thewritelife.com/how-many-words-in-a-novel