How Many Words to Write a Book?

Singapore
November 30, 2008 1:09pm CST
I would very much like to write a book, but have absolutely no idea how long it should be. What do you think is the average length of a paperback self-help book? If you have other experience in writing a book, can you tell me how many words it takes for you to write them? And tell me whether it is fiction or non-fiction and the genre you are writing. If you are intending to write a book soon, how many words are you targeting? Thank you for your response!
6 people like this
15 responses
@xParanoiax (7007)
• United States
2 Dec 08
Mostly I say it should be as long as it takes to write it. Nonfiction usually should be slightly longer than fiction, but it doesn't really matter unless you have a quota to meet or sommat This is what I've always heard defines books' lengths per type: [b]Up to 1,000 words = short story/ flash fiction 1,000-6,000 words = short story 6,000-15,000 words = long story/ novelette 15,000-45,000 words = novella 45,000-12,0000 = novel (commonly between 50000 and 80000)[/b] Not so much thought is usually given t the lenths of non-fiction, I guess 'cause I've hardly heard much discussion on length for them. I write only fiction, so far. Nonfiction really hasn't called to me so much. I've written short stores and novels, and my books on average tend to be 25,000 to 35,000 pages average (it can vary). And how many pages that actually equals depeds on the margins and page size format that you have in mind. My books are usually put three times larger than the average paperback, but if they were put in paperback format they'd easily equal 300 pages and over. So it all depends on you. I don't usually have goals for how many pages or words t write, because it's somewhat subjective...but at the same time, terribly specific which I feel cramps my intuitive process.
• United States
2 Dec 08
(ingnore my typos, I need a new keyboard, xD)
• United States
2 Dec 08
ugh...and mouse, it pasted pages where it was supposed to say words. "25,000 to 35,000 words average" [/epicselffail] lmao.
• Singapore
2 Dec 08
Thank you Paranoia, I have not seen such specification on word length about books and novels before. But since I am going to write a non-fiction, I guess it all depends on what I'm going to say. I have a book in mind, but when I checked the library, there was one very close to what I have in mind. It's actually a fun book for pregnant mothers to read, thus it does not really require too many words. Something you can easily read in a few minutes, probably while waiting to see the doctor when going for medical check-up. I'm trying to count the number of words in that book I found at the library. I probably need a new twist to it. And definitely an illustrator for my book. It's tougher than I thought!
@patgalca (12205)
• Canada
1 Dec 08
I think it is a matter of personal preference. When I wrote my first book it is 125,000 words. I read that first time novels should not be over 100,000 words. That book has been shelved for revision (and it needs it more than just because of the number of words. I have learned a whole lot since I wrote that novel). The novel I am currently working on I actually thought I was finished. I met an agent at a workshop and she told me at 53,000 words it was too short. She told me to go home and build on the characters. Ggggrrr! 53,000 words is probably more like a novella and I could use some character building but I haven't done much editing since then. She kind of de-motivated me, even though several people I have spoken to since disagree with her statement. Still, I am hoping to get my story up to at least 75,000 words. I think 100,000 would be ideal but that means practically doubling what I've written so far and there is only so much that can happen when a woman is being held captive on an island for 9 months. But you are talking about non-fiction. I don't believe there are any limits on non-fiction. I suggest you check some websites of publishing companies and/or agents and read their guidelines. Whenever you submit to either of them you have to read their guidelines first and follow them to a T. They will not even look at it if you don't follow their guidelines.
• Singapore
1 Dec 08
Keep working on it, Pat! I'm with you all the way. Tell me when you have published and I will be the first to buy it from you. An autographed one, please! At Nano, people aimed for 50,000 words for a novel. So I think the length is pretty okay. You are right. When it comes to non-fiction, there is no specific guideline. I do have to check out similar titles and see how long those kind of books should be. Will try to check out publishing guidelines on the web. Thanks for the suggestions!
@patgalca (12205)
• Canada
1 Dec 08
Maybe I'm just emotional right now (or hormonal LOl!) but your kind words brought tears to my eyes. Thanks, Sydney. I wish you lived closer; you could give me the push I need. Have a great day.
• Singapore
2 Dec 08
HI Pat! We all could do with a little push in the butt. LOL! You have been such a great emotional support since we met here at myLot. I'm so grateful to meet someone like you. Yes! I do wish we live closer so we could meet up. Who knows? One day, we might just meet up, for all you know. You're making me cry too...
@nanajanet (4437)
• United States
1 Dec 08
Just write. That is what editors are for. Art must come from within and after many drafts, and having people read it for you, you will know what is right. I only write now and then, and have written some articles that were published in magazines for dance and only one short story. I never sent it for publishing but maybe one day I will. I also used to write a column for a local newspaper on dance. I stopped after a few years when I was too busy with my own business.
• Singapore
1 Dec 08
I know that I just need to write and write and write. that's my job! I must learn to leave it to the editors to do the rest. I'm trying to compile several articles to reorganize them into a book. Let's see if it works.
1 person likes this
@nanajanet (4437)
• United States
1 Dec 08
I am a dance instructor and choreographer. When I choreograph, I just do what comes out of my head. Maybe, when done, some parts do not feel right to me and then I will "edit" the dance. Writing is the same. Although I do not consider myself a writer, per say, I do like to write and since I have written a little, professionally, I found that it was better just to write. My newspaper editor would then make the necessary edits in the piece.
@cripfemme (7722)
• United States
1 Dec 08
It varies. In my understanding, it's from 100 double spaced pages to upwards of a 1,000! The average novel I read is about 200 pages. Just go for it, my friend!
• Singapore
1 Dec 08
How many words per page then? I read on the net that David Allen's book Getting Things Done has 76,858 words. I have the book on my shelf. Just checked out the number of pages, it's 259. That's an average of 296 words per page. Hmm...
@patgalca (12205)
• Canada
1 Dec 08
There really is no limit on self-help books. I have read inspirational books and books on writing. They come in all sizes. Look at the ".... for Dummies" books. They are pretty hefty volumes for paperbacks. Dr. Phil's books, Joyce Meyer's books... they are all the size of your average novel. Then I just finished reading Maeve Binchy's Writers Book Club and it was a smaller book (can't check it - I loaned it to a friend but I think it was less than 150 pages in paperback).
@munhozmib (3738)
• Sao Paulo, Brazil
1 Dec 08
Hello, SydneyHazelton. I cannot count the words. But a self-help book should have something like 50 pages. Don't make it too big. Don't go beyond the 100 pages, unless you have a story to hide the self-help intentions. I have never written a book, but I plan on writing one someday. I don't have any courage to write 50 pages, nor experience enough in life. But, as I live, I will eventually write a book. I like self-help books, and a lot. They never cease to amaze me. You know, do some researching on self-help genre before writing. Try looking for books that are similar to what you want to write. If there are any, then try changing subject. Make it unique. Make it special. Make it well known. Respectfully, Munhozmib.
• Singapore
1 Dec 08
I love your comments, esp when you said "Make it unique. Make it special. Make it well known." I'm going to make that my motto from now on. 50 pages should not be too bad. How many words in each page?
1 person likes this
@munhozmib (3738)
• Sao Paulo, Brazil
2 Dec 08
Make it your motto and work on it. Now, about the number of pages. Do not worry about it. Let's make it like this. You are the client, and I am going to write a self-help book. I don't know your real life. I don't know what do you have trouble at. So, I'm going to create a book that ALL humans have trouble about. Something like socializing; how to have nice conversations; how to deal with stress; how to see life in a more beautiful way. Anything like that. My idea is to make YOU believe that you need help from MY book. Otherwise, you will not buy. After I make you realize that you need help, I'm going to think about how would you like to read a book. You are looking for help. Help must not take long. I must write a book with good arguments explained in short words. I must not make a book that is beyond 50 pages. Depending on the subject I may go to 100. But otherwise, it will get too long. You need immediate help. You are thirsty to know about how to help yourself. I would start writing about details from your problem. And you'd read and say: "Wow, he really knows the situation I am in". Then, I'd give a SIMPLE answer to help you. Something like: "Smile". And right below it, I'd explain WHY would that help you. "Smiling makes people think you are open to nice conversation and...". Then, after explaining why, I'd give more information on HOW to smile. "Practice it everyday in front of the mirror. Do not be afraid of showing your teeth." Then, when you finished reading the first step, you'd be amazed. I cannot count how many words per page, really. Just write and see how it goes. Let your mind flow, set no objectives, but to write 50 pages at most. Respectfully, Munhozmib.
@sierras236 (2740)
• United States
30 Nov 08
The number of words does not really matter. What matters is what you want your book to say. If you are writing a self-help book, make an outline of the topics you wish to cover. That will give you an idea of where to start. Then start writing. Stop when you have reached a natural conclusion. Use your outline as a guide. Fiction writing is different in non-fiction. For a fiction writer, the characters actually develop the story, because they are in a way the storytellers and the writer is documenting their life story, when their story ends, the story ends. If that makes any sense. Of course, the writer does have some control over the direction of the story, but that is usually after the first draft. The all important editing stage. For non-fiction writers, they give a logical listing of the facts that have been researched, they can not deviate from the story line or make things up. The facts dictate their writing, the author is merely a documentary and impartial observer. For selling, definitely consider an ebook. But keep it under 30 pages after that the reader often gets bored. Self help books are extremely bad about holding a reader's attention. If you are going to do this, consider adding a few personal stories. You can sell the book yourself and keep the profits. I wrote for Nano and came out a winner, however the story was not done until the characters told me it was finished. I registered the 50,000 words but I have a feeling it will get much bigger after I do the editing. Or it might come out smaller. My novel is fantasy fiction.
• Singapore
1 Dec 08
Thank you for your insightful comments on fiction and non-fiction writing. You are right about the fact that writing a non-fiction is merely writing about facts and you can't go beyond that. Adding personal stories is another area I will look into. Great tips there, sierras! Ebook is another consideration for me, if my piece turns out to be shorter than expected. Congrats on emerging a winner at Nano. I'm not the fiction story type. Will you publish it anytime soon? Self-publish or going to the publishing house?
• United States
2 Dec 08
I have major editing to do on the novel so it will be awhile, if it even gets published. I did this more for my enjoyment. Good luck on your book.
@sunnflr (2770)
• United States
30 Nov 08
Humm, not sure about a self-help book. I don't know if they have set limits. I do know I've read that for fiction, a book is considered a novel after 50,000 words. You might consider doing an e-book for a self-help thing.
• Singapore
30 Nov 08
I know that the Nano Wrimo encourages you to write 50,000 words for a novel. It may be slightly different for a self-help book though. E-book is another consideration actually. I don't know whether I could sell it though.
1 person likes this
@sunnflr (2770)
• United States
30 Nov 08
If it's something people are interested in, you edit it perfectly, and promote it well...it should sell. It will take some work though. Good luck!
@derek_a (10905)
2 Dec 08
When I was in writing class, I was advised that the length of the book depended on who it was targeted at. For very young children, it could be just a few thousand words, for older ones around 30,000 words, but adult novels vary greatly in length but average out about 70-80,0000 words.
• Singapore
2 Dec 08
Hi Derek, Thank you for giving me a gauge on the number of words for the different type of audience. It is very helpful.
@chandu245 (647)
• India
1 Dec 08
Well i am not interested to write a book but i am interested to read a book like horror news daily news papers and some stories and so on. It's really nice to read. But if we want to write a book means first of all we should have some idea so that we can write and easy for us to publish. It's hard to write everything. But there is no matter of words. How many words it takes that's not a matter.
• Singapore
1 Dec 08
My husband is interested to write a horror story book. BUt I doubt he has the time to do so. You are right, the number of words probably does not really matter. What matters is what I want to convey. Thank you for your response!
@annjilena (5621)
• United States
1 Dec 08
well that will depend on what you want to write about and how long your discussion is on the subject.
• Singapore
1 Dec 08
I think it all depends on the kind of writing I'm going to write. I just have to check out similar titles to help me gauge. Thank you for your response!
• United States
1 Dec 08
As many words as possible, but remember who your audiance is if you are writing a self-help book because people want you to be to the point if you are writing one of those. If you are writing an autobiography, a biography, or fiction, do whatever the heck you want as long as everything relates. Again, when you are writing a book, there is no limit on words. You do want to write more than 150 pages if you can.
• Singapore
1 Dec 08
Okay, more than 150 pages with an average of 300 words per page will come up to 45,000 words. Hmm.. Not sure if I can come up with that many words. Haha! Will try nevertheless, I really want to get published!
• United States
30 Nov 08
I think it is better not to count the words. Instead, make an outline of everything you want to say, or a plot outline for a fictional book. Then write as much as you want to in order to tell your story or get your points across. I have seen books that are less than one hundred pages (such as Of Mice And Men) or some that are much, much, thicker. Think quality, not quantity!
• Singapore
1 Dec 08
Great advice, Nicki, I know that quality counts more than quantity. I need to say what I need to say in the smallest number of words as possible, I have been told. BUt I need to have a gauge somewhere.
@RitaGreen (141)
• United States
30 Nov 08
You should check out other self help books on similar subjects. Also, go to book stores and just look through their self help aisle. Sometimes publishers like different word counts on subjects. You can even call publishing houses and ask questions or email them. You may get a quicker response. Ask at your local library also.
@Jenaisle (3803)
• Philippines
2 Dec 08
Hi Sidney, wow, finally you're writing a book, Congratulations. I'm a tyro too in this aspect. I am also planning on self-publishing a book about stories from bloggers all over the world. I still have only 8 stories, I plan to collect 20, so 12 more. I don't know how many pages will that be. But it is a self-published book, so I will be in-charge of the pages...lol..I guess as publisher, we can have the freedom to choose how many pages it would be. Good luck to you and to me...lol...I hope we can trade our published book eventually, I plan to publish on August next year. Cheers and happy mylotting. http://jenaisle-candidthoughts.blogspot.com/2008/07/by-freewine-books-are-treasure-troves.html . Perhaps you can contribute too, thanks.
@eddie72 (37)
• China
1 Dec 08
Thanks previous responsers to let me know some about it too.I have no such experinces.Althought,i have my views on it.That depens on the purpuse you starting writing a book,if you like writing and wanna shareing your thought with readers.The limit of words number of the book should dismiss when you have totally put yourself in it until finised.Other wise,as mentioned,you ask to more publishment for reward,that needs non-stop writing and writing.