The Long & The Short of Romance Writing


                         © Judy Bagshaw - All Rights Reserved


Short story, novella, novel, epic…flash fiction, short short, novelette…it can be quite confusing trying to figure out where your romance fits in the grand scheme of things. It all depends on the word count of your work. But how does one determine the word count of a document? And why is it so important to know?



To be blunt, the answer to the last question is, it really isn’t. It is important to know what length the publisher to whom you are submitting wants the work, but it only needs to be a close estimate. It’s more important for you as a writer to expend your efforts on writing the best romantic tale you can, however long it turns out to be.


There are a number of ways to determine word count. Most word processing programs have the capacity to do this for you. In MS Word, you will find it under Tools. However, not all word processors agree on what constitutes a word, and not all editors will accept the word processor’s calculation.


You can count the words—not every one, though. You count the characters in an average line, divide by six, then count the number of lines on an average page, and multiply these two numbers together. Multiply this number by the number of full pages, then round it up to the nearest hundred.


An easier method is based on using Courier-type font, 12 point, double spaced with one inch margins all around the page.   You calculate that there are 250 words per page, and multiply the 250 by total number of pages, estimating for partial pages. This will give you your approximate word count.


To give a picture of what this means:

  • 200 pages= 50,000 words 
  • 240 pages=60,000 words 
  • 280 pages = 70,000 words    


…and so on…


Because required word counts can vary from publisher to publisher, it’s important that you check the posted writer’s guidelines carefully before you submit to any publisher. Some might even provide their own required “formula” for determining word count. This has happened to me in the past. Read what they want and follow the guidelines to the letter.


However, there are some standard guidelines that can help you determine what category your romance story might fit. From smallest to largest:


  • Micro-fiction (up to 100 words) 
  • Flash fiction (100-1000 words) 
  • Short shorts (under 2000 words) 
  • Short story   (2000-7500 words) 
  • Novelette   (7500-20,000 words) 
  • Novella      (20,000-50,000 words) 
  • Novel (50,000-110,000 words) (I’ve also seen 50,000-150,000 for this category) 
  • Epic  (110,000 and up ) (I’ve also seen 150,000 and up for this category) 



Another factor that can affect word counts is whether the book is intended for the electronic publishing market. Shorter word counts are generally more acceptable within e-publishing. As well, non-fiction can often get away with being shorter in length.


Whether short or long, the most important thing for any romance writer to remember is to write the most compelling story you can.


Here are some related articles you might also want to peruse:


Epublishing: Welcoming with Open Arms by Judy Bagshaw


Queries and Cover Letters: Making that First Impression
by Judy




About the Author:  Judy Bagshaw has been published since 2000. Writing romance featuring full-figured heroines, her publishing credits include several novels, a collection of short stories, and short stories in multiple anthologies. She was also part of the writing team for the Ginn Reading Series, and Reaching Readers Series, used in many elementary schools. Retired from teaching, she writes full-time from her home in Ontario, Canada. Visit Judy's website




Easy Way to Write Romance - by Rob Parnell