How Many Words Should My Book Have?

When I first set out to write my book, I searched all over YouTube and Google for answers. What I got was a confusing mess of contradictions. Mostly about word count. Everyone I looked up said that they knew how many words made up a novel, yet there was no consistency in their advice. I got very frustrated and discouraged. If I couldn’t find answers from so-called “experts”, then how was I ever going to know if my book would be good enough or long enough?

After collecting all the data I figured out the answer. It was an answer that I should have come up with at the very beginning. It was the same answer to a lot of the questions I had as a new writer. What was this answer that liberated me from the chains of the old school, writing gatekeepers?

Do whatever I want.

With those four words, I was able to craft my story the way I wanted to. That’s not to say I didn’t listen to some writers and take their advice on certain things. I listened, or read, to what they had to say and took from it what I wanted and left the rest on the floor. 

I’m not someone who likes to be told I have to do something a certain way. When a writing “expert” says that you have to do it a particular way or else, then I’m more likely to go the exact opposite way. I’ve been that way my whole life. Some may see it as a character flaw, but not me. No one should tell you how your art should look.

Now I said I took some advice and that’s not a bad thing. Listen to as many people as you can, but only take from them what you want. Like word count. Some people say that a novel MUST be 80,000-100,000 words long. Others say that 50,000 is the least amount of words for a novel. There is no absolute guide for word counts. Your story should be as long as it needs to be.

I recently bought a book from author Chuck Dixon. He started out writing comic books for Marvel and DC but has moved to write his own comics and novels. The book I bought is titled Levon’s Trade. I was surprised to see it was only 194 pages. I read the book in two days and loved it. It kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. The story he told in those 194 pages was better than most books I’ve read that were twice as long. Word count only, in my opinion, is for authors who are published traditionally. As a self-published author, you can set the number to whatever you want.

There will always be gatekeeping writers who will try to persuade you to do things their way. Art, and writing is art, is personal. If your story ends up being 400,000 words long, great. You can put out one giant book or split it up into three smaller ones. If it’s only 45,000 words, still great. It’s completely up to you. I think there are writers out there that have been discouraged by the advice they see online and decide not to write their stories. If that’s you let me say now that you have permission to write the book you have always wanted to. Don’t let writing snobs keep you from living your dream. More likely than not they’re afraid someone will come up in the self-publishing world and be better than them. They should be afraid.

I hope this helps new writers who want to begin writing and writers who have stopped because of bad advice. Someone in the world needs to read your story, but that will only happen if you write it. So get to it.

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