How Many Words Does It Take To Write A Young Adult Book?

In all my time writing things down (27 years or so) this is perhaps the most common question I hear asked: just how many words are in a young adult novel? The answers is as long as a piece of string — twice the length from the middle to the end. That said, in general Young Adult books tend to be around 50,000 - 90,000 words. Although 110,000 word Young Adult novels exist they’re the minority, as are 50,000 words or below books.

While I know this to be true, and so do most writers, the actual truth of the matter is that your book needs to be as long as it needs to be.

There are exceptions on either end of the spectrum that are wonderful reads — if you write 110,000 words really incredibly well there’s space for you in publishing. Of course, finding somebody willing to read those 120,000 words might be the challenge.

Sometimes, the very thought that word counts are a judgment call can end up eating into your writerly soul and tormenting you. Only you can know when to stop, and that’s the best and worst part of all.


A Closer Look At Word Counts for Young Adult Novels

When you take a closer look at recent data you can see that Young Adult novels vary in length anywhere from 25,000 - 100,000 words in length for many published authors. This just goes to show how there are no rules set in stone when it comes to length. Although the median word count of those novels was 73,000 — right around where conventional wisdom would suggest — the existence of 25,000 word novels in the YA genre is enough to show you, and hey maybe even me, that anything is possible.

How Many Words Are In A Chapter Of A Young Adult Novel?

When it comes to writing your chapters, the question of how many words is an interesting one that’s intrinsically linked with pacing.

Some people will let you know that 2,500 words is about average per chapter, while others will snort into their tea and let you know that it should be 5,000 words and not a drop less. Most agree that less than 1,000 and more than 5,000 words in a chapter is a big no. Frankly, I’ve seen, read, and enjoyed all four scenarios. Annoyingly, this means a chapter in a book you write can be any length you need.

There’s no hard and fast rule for this because every story is different, with different characters who have different perspectives. When it comes to length, thinking about the pacing of your novel can help with this. Shorter chapters tend to capture attention and keep a reader intrigued but they can also be exhausting if sustained for a long period of time. Longer chapters can help a story simmer and brew, allowing a deeper dive into plot. A series of super fast and tiny chapters could simulate the passage of time, but so could one intensely long chapter… When it comes to chapter size, the rules are up to you.

Why Are Word Counts Important For A Manuscript?

You’d think the answer was obvious, and that it had something to do with proving that you, as a writer, can finish a story. This is only half the truth.

Personally, I think it’s very important to prove (if only to yourself) that you can finish a story.

You’re at the reigns and

you have this covered.

Sure, it might feel like you’re on a runaway train speeding towards the end of the line and with no idea where this plot is going at points but sometimes that’s where knowing acceptable word counts can help you lasso everything together.

Here’s the other half truth:

It’s also generally accepted that when you submit a piece of work to an agent, publisher, or green glowing cloud in the sky, they’re going to want to make some edits. Sometimes lots and lots of edits. Sometimes hardly any. But regardless, if you offer them a book with a word count about where they’d expect you can save a lot of time.

Publishing takes an excruciatingly long time.

By the time one book is out there in the wild you’ll probably be winding up book three in your drafts.

Or even book four, five, six.

If you’re fast enough maybe book one — which is only just being released — will be a distant memory you’ll need to study up on before you talk about it. In between writing and publishing your book you’ll have all kinds of life events — get married, have kids, buy a houseplant, join a super niche alien cult group, whatever’s your gig — and still have time for other things.

Anything, anything, you can do to speed this process up has to be a win.

If you’re self-publishing things aren’t going to go quite as slow but the fact you have a novel that’s about the right length is going to help during edits. No doubt.

What do you think about word counts for Young Adult fiction?