Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Thank heaven for popular authors . . .

. . . who break length limits for the rest of us.

In a post about rejections from BookEnds, we get the following oft-repeated length limits:

* Most novels are roughly 80,000 to 100,000 words. Anything I don’t mention here should be within that range, give or take 5,000 words.
* Cozy mysteries: 70,000 to 90,000 words. Usually on the short end of that.
* Category romance: Anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 (note this is Harlequin/Silhouette only)
* Fantasy: Can run longer, up to 120,000 words

And YA runs shorter than adult. And therefore I’m grateful that Harry Potter blew those lengths out of the water.

I just read MASTIFF, Tamora Pierce’s third book in the Beka Cooper trilogy. You know how long that was? Six hundred pages plus. SIX HUNDRED PAGES. Figuring that it’s about ten thousand words per thirty pages, that’d be about 200,000 words.

And I’m grateful. Not just because I love long books, though I often do. But because my default length as a writer is upwards of 120,000 words. That’s the length with which I’m most comfortable. I always write long and then cut, and when I’m done cutting I’m often STILL above 120,000 words.

Sometimes I even get within shouting distance of 100,000 words. But not usually.

Most of the time a serious cut improves a book (I mostly believe this) and if cutting the length down encourages a publishing house to take the book, then it’s worth doing on that account, too.

But I’m very glad that there are enough popular authors out there breaking the length rules that the rest of us have a little more leeway than the figures above suggest.

(Though I would suggest you keep the first book you seriously shop around under 100,000 words, if you’re serious about getting agents to look at it. When you’re as famous as Tamora Pierce, you can get away with those 200,000 word manuscripts. I’m looking forward to the day when *I* can get away with that.)

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