A lot of people think that a 50,000-word NaNoWriMo novel isn’t really a full novel, by most standards. Some say it’s actually more like a novella, or as I read on one blog (can’t remember which particular blog), an extended outline.
So here are some word count guidelines to help keep you on track…
Short-short stories, flash fiction, vignettes: Up to 1,000 words
Short stories: 1,000 – 6,000 words
Long story, novelette: 6,000 – 15,000 words
Novella: 15,000 – 45,000 words
Novel: 45,000 – 120,000 words (By these guidelines, a NaNoWriMo novel is a novel! Ha!)
And each genre has its own specific word count range.
Middle grade fiction: 25,000 – 40,000 words
YA fiction: 45,000 – 80,000 words for mainstream; 125,000 words for paranormal
Urban fantasy/paranormal romance: 100,000 words
Mysteries/Crime fiction: 60,000 – 70,000 words
Mainstream/Chick lit: 80,000 – 100,000 words
Literary fiction: 120,000 words
Thrillers: 100,000 – 120,000 words
Historical: 160,000 words (Strange. I thought fantasy novels were longer.)
Sci-fi/fantasy: 100,000 – 120,000 words
The NaNoWriMo novel falls short of all of these except the YA word count (or a very long middle grade novel). But of course, the “right” word count can also depend on the particular publishing house and the length of novels they accept. These numbers above are just averages.
And for famous novels with really epic word counts:
1. The Wheel of Time series (15 books) by Robert Jordan, completed by Brandon Sanderson – 3,430,682 words
2. Remembrance of Things Past / In Search of Lost Time (7 volumes) by Marcel Proust – 1.5 million words (English translation)
3. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy – 560,000 words (English translation)
4. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand – 540,000 words
5. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo – 513,000 words (in the original French)