Wikipedia, that fount of knowledge, describes a novel as 'a long prose narrative that describes fictional characters and events in the form of a sequential story, usually.' But how long is long? Or conversely, how short is too short?
I've done NaNoWriMo for the past decade, and that had led me tobelieve that a novel is about 50,000 words, but I've heard figures bandied around as high as 100,000 words for an average novel. To add to the mix, different genres seem to demand different word counts, and then we get into other terms like 'novella' and 'short story' - the latter of which can run into tens of thousands of words, which to me doesn't seem that short!
To try to clarify things I did a bit of digging and found this blog post by former literary agent Colleen Lindsay which has a guideline list. Some of the figures she suggests are:
- Children's fiction can be anywhere from 25k to 40k, with the average at 35k
- Young adult fiction can be anywhere from about 45k to 80k
- Mainstream fiction and thrillers can vary from 65k to 120k
- Science fiction and fantasy is often about 100k
- Anything under 50k is usually considered a novella, with the exception of children's books
For the full list and some really helpful information I do recommend her post as the best place to start.