For some reason, people are obsessed with the length of books. And by “people,” I mean aspiring authors. “How long should my book be?” “How long is too long?” “How short is too short?”
I used to answer in the snarky words of my high school Spanish teacher. When asked (incessantly) how long our essays needed to be, Señora Durham would respond, “Make it like a skirt — long enough to cover the topic, but short enough to be interesting.”
And then people would look at me askance for putting it that way, so I stopped. But it’s true. No rules, man — tell your story. Don’t worry about length.
The more I pondered the subject, though, the more my thoughts turned to myself. Because that’s who I am.
So here, for the possible edification of those who might be interested or just really, really bored, is the length of each of my books. Enjoy!1
- The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy & Goth Girl – 77,200
- Boy Toy – 102,200 (originally 131,000)
- Hero-Type – 68,700
- Goth Girl Rising – 81,400
- Wolverine: Worst Day Ever – 23,600
- Archvillain – 35,200
- Mangaman – 20,000
- Archvillain 2: The Mad Mask – 44,800
- Archvillain 3: Yesterday Again – 66,500
- I Hunt Killers – 88,000
- Game – 119,000
- Unsoul’d – 70,100
- Blood of My Blood – 106,100
- Lucky Day – 22,700
- After the Red Rain – 104,000
- The Secret Sea – 95,200
So, what can we learn from this? Hell if I know! First, we need to discard Wolverine, Lucky Day, and Managman, the last because it’s a script for a graphic novel, the others because they’re novellas and therefore deliberately shorter.
Of the remaining books, I’m not sure if there are any lessons for would-be authors. The middle-grade books tend to be shorter, but even there the Archvillain series began as my shortest and then edged into Hero-Type territory, with that book being the shortest of my YA. By the time you get to my most recent middle-grade, The Secret Sea, we’re fully in crazy-length territory.
The longest books are Game and After the Red Rain (which surprises me because I thought AtRR was pretty short). But Boy Toy was longer than them both by far before I chopped about a hundred and fifty pages out of it. (Some of those pages live on the Deleted Scenes page.)
And Unsoul’d, my only (so far) adult novel is shorter than pretty much all my YA (except, again, for Hero-Type).
If you are looking for confirmation that middle-grade should be super-short and YA should be kinda short and only in adult fiction can you really let loose with word count…well, you came to the wrong place.
Follow the advice of Señora Durham, people: Your book is as long or as short as it needs to be, and no more.
- Please note that these are approximations. I used the latest version of each manuscript on my computer, so these counts are rounded to the nearest hundred. Given corrections made in copyedits and page proofs, there could be variations of a hundred or more words, but nothing that’s going to make a substantial difference in the final totals.↩