Asking an author for her word count is like asking a woman her weight. Just look at this list of story categories!
Novelette–7,500 to 15,000 words
Novella–17,500 to 40,000 words
Novel– over 40,000 words
(Compiled by Perry Elisabeth from Wikipedia and Yahoo Answers. These may vary according to publisher.)
This reduces my book The Treasure Hunt to a short story and my current projects to four novelettes, two novellas, and hopefully one novel!
I am not J.R.R. Tolkien. Painful revelation, right? The Hobbit was considered his “short story” at 95,022 words. The Lord of the Rings trilogy was a whopping 455,125 words. The only way I would ever get that word count is by totaling up a lifetime’s worth of school pages, emails, blog posts, journal entries, and stories!
Fortunately, I do write MG/YA fiction which makes it more acceptable to write shorter works. After all Sarah, Plain and Tall was only 9,000 words. Stuart Little doubles that at 18,841. Number the Stars is 27,197. At least one or all of these little books are considered childhood classics.
Quality over quantity. (You already knew that.) Readers don’t count words. They turn pages eagerly or toss the book aside. They focus on characters and storyline. Nothing more.
Maybe your story should be longer. Does it feels abbreviated? Take it back to the drawing board! If you have plot holes–fill ’em up! Or is it too simplistic? You know what to do. (And don’t summarize your denouement, Alcott.)
But if lengthening your story means it will turn into an episode of Month of the Novel–please don’t. Throwing in unnecessary details to feel like a legit, long-winded author just killed your story. And your readers. And your ratings.
As a reader, I love thick books that promise days and days of delight ahead; but I also love the little books that are just the right size to tuck away inside my heart in one short afternoon. Write for your Audience of One and for your readers–not for your own word count worries. Let the story itself decide how long it will be.
And by the way, here’s a list of a few books that are too short to make the NaNoWriMo cut but made literary history anyway. 😉 (I can’t recommend all of them.)