Writing and the left brain

The devil is in the details, and it lives in the left brain of writers.

Many aspiring writers agonize over what I call Left Brain Worries. You know the Left Brain. That nit-picky voice inside us that scolds us and often keeps the Right Brain, the creative lobe, from, well, creating.

One of the primary Left Brain Worries for those who want to write but can't seem to start is not knowing how long their novel, novella, or short story should be. So, for those who can't seem to start because you don't know how far you need to go, here are my answers.

Q: How long is a page of writing?

A: One manuscript page is considered to be 250 words:

1.when margins are at least one inch top, bottom, left, and right

2.when the right margin is ragged. Never use Right or Full Justify.

3.when a 12 point fixed font such as Courier New is used. This font looks like
the Pica type formerly produced by typewriters. If Courier New looks too faint
then go to the Hewlett Packard web site for a free download of Dark Courier.

4.when there are at least 25 lines of type on the page with about 10 words/line.

Q: How long is a short short story?

A: 500-2,000 words with the formatting set up as described above but with the word count achieved by actually counting each word. By the way, the article adjective A counts as a word.

Q: How long is a short story?

A: 2,500-5,000 words with standard manuscript format but again with words actually counted as in the short short.

Q: How long is a novella?

A: 7,000-15,000 words with standard manuscript format but word count now is usually computed by multiplying the number of pages by 250. Partial pages count as a full 250.

Q: How long is a novel?

A: Word count for novels by traditional publishers (electronic publishers usually use a computer count) is computed by multiplying the number of pages by 250. Therefore, a single title romance novel would be approximately 100,000 words or 400 manuscript pages. Category publishers like Silhouette and Harlequin have stringent word length requirements for their different lines. Submitted manuscripts should be very close to that stated in the respective guidelines. These guidelines can be found at the Harlequin/Silhouette website.

A caveat: How long any literary work really is depends upon how many words or pages it takes to tell the story. Get the story written then worry about the word count in the revision process. The main thing is: FIRST GET THE STORY TOLD.

Sling Words out. Need to get some of my story told today by meeting my page quota. I'm a bit behind due to my annual bout of bronchitis.


  1. Hi - thanks for the word count info. I've done all the courier 12, 1 inch, margins, etc. but have 24 lines per page and trying to get an accurate word count.
    And although its 635 pages, the new chapters start 1/3 of the way down the page.

    Word tools word count: 121,000
    Dividing character count and spaces: 137,552
    Page x 240 (for the 24 line) = 152,880.

    any advice?

  2. Hi, Sheila, sorry this took a while--had to back track to find the entry you commented on. You can adjust the line height and thus get 25 lines per page. I use Word Perfect. I just change the line height to 1.67" and that does the trick. Also, if you are not using Dark Courier, I recommend you go to the HP wegsite and download it. It's free and makes a world of difference in appearance. Prints out nice and dark.