I saw something the other day on Tumblr about the average lengths of fantasy novels. They ranged depending on the type of fantasy and I think it’s something important to talk about. As you may know, NaNoWriMo purports to have people write a novel in a month, but at 50k words, it comes in more as a longer novella. Generally, novels range between 60-80k words, especially for a first try. So what length should you be aiming for? Well, that depends on a few factors.
The genre of your novel will have a definite impact on the length of your work. Fantasy novels and science fiction often are longer due to the need to world-build and introduce a lot of concepts or changes to what we know as normal life. On top of that, it’s still a novel so characters and plots have to be introduced. Fantasies are also more likely to be written in series form – multiple volumes. That’s not to say you can’t have a fantasy short story, but more often than not, fantasy novels will be longer. On the other hand, general fiction or romance books tend to be shorter. There’s less to introduce, and unless the plot is particularly complicated, it will wrap up faster.
Targeted Age Group
If you’re writing for children or young adults, your book is likely to fall into the shorter categories not only because plots are often simpler but because children especially have shorter attention spans. Language also tends to be simpler in younger age groups books.
The intricacies of your plot will determine how long your novel is. Just as fantasies can often run for several volumes’ worth of books, if the plot isn’t complicated, it may only last one novel. The more complicated the plot, the longer the book.
Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that the Lord of the Rings series could be a lot shorter if Tolkien had just stopped describing trees. That’s his style, though, and you’ll find out whether or not yours makes things longer or shorter.
In the end, the length of your novel will be what it is, but beware that an editor will probably have something to say if it’s too long or too short. In the editing process, look for unnecessary additions or places that could be expanded on in order to improve the manuscript. There are always exceptions to the rules, however, so write as you see fit and edit later!