Found out something lovely the other day. Apparently mystery novels usually run between 65,000 and 75,000 words. I probably should’ve paid more attention to word count when I started this book, since I’m already 25,000 words in and still not done setting the stage.
Eh. I’m sure I can chop a good chunk out when the next draft rolls around.
For the curious, here’s how the word counts typically break down by genre. Of course, every publisher does things a little bit differently, but these seem to be the accepted generalizations.
- Literary/Contemporary: 75,000 to 95,000
- Fantasy: 90,000 to 150,000 (youch!)
- Historical: 85,000 to 100,000
- Young Adult: 50,000 to 75,000
- Serial Mysteries: 65,000 to 75,000
- Westerns: 50,000 to 75,000
I found one agent who said 80,000 to 90,000 was the magical safe zone for fiction. Great news for me. The first book I tried to sell came in at an obese 130,000 words. Call it a rookie mistake. I thought longer was better.
I pared that baby down to 95,000 words and instantly drew more interest from agents. In the end, the book needed so much reworking I lost interest, but I definitely learned a lot.
I’m aiming for between 70-75k for my current project. This puts the finish line somewhere in April, and I’m stoked. I used to be scared of editing down my books (no! not my precious words! I spent HOURS on them!), but I have to say once you start cutting it can be addicting. I love it.
Instant energy. Better pacing.
I’m a fan.
Of course you have to write the words before you can realize you don’t need them. Will maybe work on that.