What should my word count be? is a question that every writer asks at least once in their writing career, and with good reason.
Having a word count in mind can be a goal to work toward. Looking at you, NaNoWriMo.
It’s also a good idea to know what expectations your readers might have around book lengths and the hours they’ll spend with you. And those expectations vary wildly between genres: epic fantasies can be four times as long as a middle-grade mystery.
Stop Worrying about Your Word Count
My advice when you start a new writing project is to put worries about word count away. Just let the draft unfold. Let what wants to come, come. There will be time later to bump your word count if you fall short of where you want to be, or to shave (or hack) away at a manuscript that’s so big it’s unwieldy.
Sometimes what you think is a short story is actually a novel, or vice versa. When I first showed Love Notes to My Body to my editor, she pointed out that some of my “notes” had turned into “letters” and would be better suited as essays, which is how I ended up writing and publishing three books at one time.
Be open to what is showing up. Once you’re clear on what you’re writing, then google expected word counts for your genre. If you’re headed a traditional route, do your best to hit those word-count expectations. If you’re publishing independently, you’ve got a little more leeway, but it’s important to remember that readers have expectations too.