You are here:

Writing Books/word count and book length


QUESTION: I am working on a novel and haven't really paid attention to word count until recently. Suddenly I've discovered that my 186 page novel has 152,217 words in it, and I'm not done telling the story. I've looked on line and am finding that a lot of popular current books are only half of that word count. Yet I think that to cut the story in half would destroy the flow. What should I do?

ANSWER: Hi, Joy!

First, if you have 152K words, and only 186 pages, you must be single-spacing your manuscript. An agent or editor will want to see the manuscript double-spaced, so you might as well get accustomed to typing that way. You'll discover that your manuscript will be around 420-450 pages, which does make it a long book. But much depends on the genre. Fantasy novels can easily be 120K, which wouldn't make it that much to cut. Historical romance and some thrillers is often a long book as well, so there is hope!  What genre are you writing?


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you Cathy.
The book I am writing is fantasy. I took the first 12 chapters, which I consider to be only the beginning of the story, and set them into a font size that I found suggested for average page length. This turned 148 pages into 516 and brought my word count to approximately 121,000. But yes, it is single spaced. I'm not entirely sure what you mean when you say double spaced though. Should there be 2 spaces between each word, or just at the end of each sentence?
I think at this point I am just going to keep writing the whole story and not worry about length until it is done. I'll have to get an editor anyway, and I guess it would be better to let them or the publisher make a decision about if it should be cut into half. I think I may be too close to the story to be able to make that choice for myself.

ANSWER: Hi, again, Joy!

Double spaced is the space between LINES, not words. What word processing program are you using to type? I'll tell you how to put it it in double spacing.

I agree to not worry about it until it's done. Once you're completed, pop back here and I'll tell you more about the process to move forward toward publication. :)


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you so much again Cathy.
I am writing with Microsoft Works Word Processor from Vista. Right now its just set on the standard that it normally runs on. My pages have been written on font size 10, which is why I didn't realize I had written as much as I had.
I haven't taken an English course in 14 years, so I'm sure I'm making all kinds of errors that will frustrate me later.

Here's how you change the line spacing.

For NEW text (since Works is like MSWord in that commands are "from here and after" and won't affect what you've done already.)

1.  If you go to the top bar, look for "Format". Click on it.
2.  Look for the word "Paragraph...". Click on it.
3.  Click on the top tab that says "Spacing".
4.  The third line is "Line Spacing" Click on the arrow next to "Single"
5.  Move your mouse down until "Double" is highlighted. Click on it.

That's it! Future text will be doublespaced.

Now, if you want to doublespace what you've already done, go to the very top of the document, click until your cursor is at the very top left corner and press down on the 'Shift' key on your keyboard. While holding down the 'Shift' key, use your down-arrow key to scroll down to the very bottom of the document. While still holding down the 'Shift' key, put your mouse cursor at the very last character of the manuscript and click. It will cause all of the text to be highlighted in blue. This is known as "select text." Then, follow the steps above for NEW text, and all of the previous text will be doublespaced as well. :)

Hope that helps!  Good luck, and let me know if you have any other questions.


Writing Books

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Cathy Clamp


I'm happy to answer questions about any aspect of writing novels, from the beginning kernel of an idea through completion. I can help with writing a query letter and synopsis to an agent or editor. I can explain publishing terminology and acronyms. I can also assist with questions about verifying the credentials of agents/publishers and how to proceed once you've been accepted for publication. I can teach the rules of formatting a manuscript, creating viable plots, characterization and flow in the following genres: romance, science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, suspense, horror, women's fiction, mainstream and mystery.


I'm a USA Today bestselling author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance for Tor/Forge Books. Along with a co-author, I've published fifteen novels (combination of mass market and trade softcover) since 2003, and have contracts for four more books through 2011.

Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Western Outdoor Writers, Horror Writers of America.

Tor/Forge Books, Western Reflections Publishing, BenBella Books, Running Press, Wild Child Publishing. Many others.

My educational background is limited to real life experience of publishing novels commercially for the past five years.

Awards and Honors
USA Today bestseller, Waldenbooks Mass Market Paperback Top 20 bestseller, Nielsen BookScan Top 20 bestseller, RT BOOKreviews Career Achievement Award winner, 2009, Book Buyers Best Award for Paranormal, Romantic Times Best Werewolf Novel, Write Touch Readers Award, EVVY Best Historical Chronicle Award, The Lories Best Paranormal. Many others.

©2017 All rights reserved.