How many Pages to Write a Novel?
February 9, 2007 9:32 AM   Subscribe

How many type written pages make up a novel?

I'm curious to know if I was considering writing something in WORD, single spaced (I guess?). How many pages would I have to write to have it be novel sized once published?
posted by finitejest to Writing & Language (12 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
A novel should be at least 50,000 words. Word has a word-count feature.
posted by amro at 9:41 AM on February 9, 2007

(You can figure out about how many words to a page and then determine the approximate number of pages you would need to write to hit the desired word length.)
posted by amro at 9:45 AM on February 9, 2007

Cool. I guess I should have just asked how many words. One of those DUH times.
posted by finitejest at 9:50 AM on February 9, 2007

A couple of things.

Word count is not, strictly speaking, the precise number of words in a page, but an approximation that estimates the total size of the manuscript. A 400-page manuscript full of single-word paragraphs is exactly the same, from a publisher's word-count perspective, as a 400-page manuscript made up of a single paragraph, even though the latter will probably have 10-15 times as many words.

You may assume 250 words per page when using 12-point Courier, double-spaced. And you will double space your manuscript: search the web to find out how to format your manuscript properly for submission to a publisher.

50,000 words (or about 200 pages) is a minimum; many novels are in the 70-90,000 word range. First novels are unlikely to be doorstoppers.
posted by mcwetboy at 10:00 AM on February 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

Novels vary widely in length. Once you've hit 50K, you've got a novel, as opposed to something else. But most adult novels hover closer to the 100K mark. See this entry from Miss Snark for instance. Page count will vary even among books with the same word count, so don't worry about that yet.

Also, as for how to space and other formatting issues--you can do it however you like while you're writing. But before submitting to agents or publishers (if indeed that is your intention), make sure to do a bunch of research. (Miss Snark is a pretty good resource, plus there's even "Getting Published for Dummies" and such). There aren't too many iron-clad rules for formatting a submission--they vary, and there are only a couple deal-breakers--but double-spacing is a must.
posted by lampoil at 10:05 AM on February 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

I don't have my copy of Imponderables
on me, and I can't seem to find any information on it on the internet, but I believe books are often printed with certain common page counts. At the very least, they are always published in a number divisable by four; because you can't just add a single sided page to a book, you must add a sheet that has two sides and is folded in half.
Imponderables gave the example of a line of romance novels that all were the same length to save printing costs.
This isn't incredibly important as you're writing the book; extraneous matter like dedication pages, blank pages, dedication, false and real title pages, typeface, and overall book design can all be played with. But it is a factor in how many pages make up a novel.
posted by Juliet Banana at 10:07 AM on February 9, 2007

(Over a few hundred pages, you can generate enough slack to add or subtract four just by playing with kerning and hyphenation. No need to redesign the pages, even. This sort of fiddling is much easier nowadays, since the whole process can be done automatically by a computer. In the, er, good old days when everything was done by hand, I imagine those extra blank or redundant pages were much more important.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:49 AM on February 9, 2007

Just as a data point, I grabbed a copy of The Scarlet Letter from Project Guetenberg. With all the licensing text removed, it clocked in at 82904 words, or about 332 pages at 250 words per page.
posted by icosahedral at 11:20 AM on February 9, 2007

The figure I remember hearing for optimal length of a first published novel is between 80,000 and 120,000 words.
posted by Prospero at 11:59 AM on February 9, 2007

Based on the poster's nickname, I think the correct answer is something like: eleven hundred pages that make you say "Fuck you, Wallace" before turning back to page one to start the goddamn thing over again.

(More carefully this time.)
posted by rokusan at 12:35 PM on February 9, 2007

And you will double space your manuscript: search the web to find out how to format your manuscript properly for submission to a publisher.

As an editor, I strongly second this. I hate getting manuscripts (and we only deal with solicited ones -- nothing unsolicited) that are single-spaced, come in weird typefaces, bizarre pt. sizes, and/or have tiny quarter-inch margins. Our specs are Times New Roman, 12-pt. ONLY. Double-spaced. Normal (1-inch) margins, flush left (no right justified).

In other words, it's your responsibility to find out what a publisher wants, and then do it.
posted by scody at 1:06 PM on February 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

Depends on the genre. Some mysteries can run as low as 50k words; thrillers generally run between 80-120k words; some sci-fi and fantasy can run even higher.

Earlier advice is good: check with the publisher, but also *get to know the market.* Look at the books in that genre and you'll start to see a trend in word length.

Absolutely true that manuscripts need to be double spaced. That's an industry standard. You can figure about 250 words per typewritten manuscript page. How that comes out in book form depends on formating, font, chapter breaks, etc.

Hope this helps.

posted by gb77 at 4:06 PM on February 9, 2007

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