There are many factors to consider when deciding the length of your novel and if you should split it in two or more, but thankfully there are some good well-known rules about word count to guide you for technical purposes. What is also important to consider when you read word count guides, if you should or want to compress your story to fit into that box. For those not fond of boxes, the idea of a sequel, or part two begins to form …
Let’s get the technical stuff out of the way, for adult books, usually most novels fall between 80,000-100,000 words. There is some discussion from experts that break this down further into genres. Books for teens sit around 50,000 words, and so on. There are various reasons why this is so, such as publishing costs, the general view or perception people have of how long a novel should be, and to separate a novella or short story from a novel. There are exceptions to the rules of course, and some authors have written longer novels, usually these are well known authors, and they can because they have a devout reader following. For new authors, it is usually better to stick with the norm, because you do want to get published after all 😊.
For self-publishing the fees will depend on word count, so this is important financially. You have to decide if your story is getting longer or bigger than you initially thought. This is a hard decision, but the way I decided was I looked at how long was “longer” for me to finish the story. If it was a chapter, maybe even two chapters more than the average length, I would have stayed with one novel. But, mine was going into more than that, it was by no means finished therefore, a sequel it is! When talking with your publisher, they will also help you with this, and keep in mind, editing is real and some of your words, even whole paragraphs may be taken out (more on this topic in a future post).
When thinking about this, perhaps fantasy novels are easier, as sequels or series are very acceptable. Creating a fantasy world takes time to explain really, and I found my first book is more of the main character discovering this new world and herself. I found I could not compress everything new into one novel, and I did not want to. Taking some excessive descriptions, character banter and discussion out so the story does not slow down too much for readers, is far different than actually completing the story within a novel’s length. Therefore, I would suggest you think about this carefully, especially if you are creating a fictional world that is very different than the real one. Part of a fantasy novel, is the reader must understand and get immersed (and hopefully a little imaginatively lost) in the environment of the characters. It is easier for people to imagine a city in current time, but it takes time to build a reader’s concept of the world you created 😊.
Some authors have done prologues to their books, this is helpful for creating background of characters or the world, and this can also be considered when deciding on the length of the book. Readers can peruse this section of the book at their leisure, it is approximately 250-750 words, really which is approximately 1 to 3 pages of a standard paperback, but if this is all you need to round out or give some important background, then this a good option. Some authors have done appendices, maps and even family trees in the front or back of their books for readers to get a fuller picture and this is also something to consider.
The story ultimately guided my decision, and all I can say is from my own experience, is don’t get too hung up on the numbers, there is actually a lot of leeway. What matters is telling the story as well as you can and finishing the story well is the most important. Readers want to read the journey, even those that read the last page first.