Most works of fiction are defined first and foremost by the number of words they contain. There are several ways of calculating your word counts, with various advantages and disadvantages.
The Processed Count:
This is the number your word processor will provide when you ask it for a word count on your document. This is the quick and easy way to get a number, but watch out. Not all word processors agree on what constitutes a word or how to count them, and not all editors will agree with a count obtained this way. This method may also shortchange you, depending on what your processor defines as a word. It's usually best used as a rough guide.
The Counted Count:
No, you're not going to count every word to get this number. You're going to count the characters in an average line, divide by six, count the number of lines on an average page, multiply these two numbers together, and multiply that by the number of full pages (and partial pages) to get the total number of words. Round up to the nearest hundred and voila! your word count. Because you're counting characters and lines, line spacing and font type and size don't matter. This is generally accepted as the standard method of word count calculation.
The Counted Count (short form):
This is the easiest way to get a standard word count, but it makes a few assumptions. First, you're using a Courier-type font, about 12 point size, double spacing, and your margins are about one inch all the way around. This is standard manuscript submission format anyway, so it shouldn't be too much trouble. With this setup, you can calculate two hundred and fifty words per page, just the same as 'way back when we all used typewriters. Multiply your total number of pages by 250, estimating for partial pages, and you've got your count. You should get very close to the same number as you would using method two, with a lot less counting.
The following terms are the most frequently used in describing prose works, and the word count numbers represent generally accepted norms. Remember that most fiction markets set their own particular word count requirements, and they may deviate from these generalizations. Always check the particular requirements of the market to which you are submitting.
Generally any work of prose fiction over 45,000 words, ranging to about 150,000 words.
Short novel averaging 7,000 - 40,000 words. These terms are often used somewhat interchangeably, although novellas tend to be longer, and novelettes shorter.
Prose fiction of about 2,000 - 7,500 words.
Prose fiction under 2,000 words.
(also known as sudden fiction or micro fiction) Prose fiction under 1000, 500, or even 99 words, depending on the market or guidelines.
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