We all love reading novels. We enjoy getting know a cast of characters and immersing ourselves in their world. A novel can tell a rich and complicated story, full of sub-plots and twists and turns. Readers fall in love with novels and the heroes in them. But they do take a long time to write.

Novels can be in any genre of fiction: literary, historical, romance, science-fiction, fantasy, horror, children’s, young adult, adventure, crime, thriller, comedy, erotica etc. The conventions of each vary. The minimum length for an adult novel would be 45,000 words (about the length of The Great Gatsby). More normally they range from 70,000 to 130,000 words. Books for children will be shorter. Books for young adults (ie teenagers) don’t need to be.

For comparison, Jane Eyre  is just over 180,000 words and War and Peace not far off 600,000.

However long your book, you’ll need a structure and a plot. To sustain a story of that scale you’ll need supporting characters whose stories connect with and feed off the main story. Most people find that they need some kind of plan when writing a work on this scale, but also the freedom to change the plan as they go along. One of the most fun things in writing is when your characters start to take on a life of their own and refuse to play along. If that happens, all you can do is go with it.

If you’re unsure about writing a novel, it’s fine just to start writing and see what happens. You can go back and impose a plan and a structure later. Many people engage with NaNoWriMo and try to write a novel in a month by turning off their inner critic and just going for it. This can be liberating and inspiring. Alternatively, try starting with the shorter word count of a novella.

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