As I started drafting my new WIP – a YA sci-fi thriller – I began wondering what word count I should aim for. Writing towards a word count might not work for everybody, but having a rough goal in mind certainly helps me when I’m sketching out chapters and undertaking my first draft.
Unfortunately, word counts aren’t easy to find. There are various methods you can try, but even companies like Amazon only offer the page count (which varies by edition). Even more frustrating is the conflicting information from online sources – if you really want your novel to ‘fit’ within the genre, it’s helpful to know the ‘proper’ length of the competition.
This post unlocks the word counts of some popular YA series.
In the quest for word counts, I stumbled onto this post by Andrew Winkel, first published in 2013. He had helpful directions to the AR BookFinder website, which (among other things, such as quizzes and ratings) helpfully has the word counts of hundreds of books.
Below are several different YA series, their word counts per book and total word counts for the entire series. Towards the bottom, I also checked the (ongoing) epic fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire and the original Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Only word counts are below, not page counts, as some novels vary between editions. Attempts were made to fact-check the word count, and some other sources vary on exact word count, but managed to agree within a 10% window.
Hunger Games: 99,750 [AR Page]
Hunger Games: Catching Fire: 101,564 [AR Page]
Hunger Games: Mockingjay: 100,269 [AR Page]
The Maze Runner: 101,182 [AR Page]
The Scorch Trials: 96,869 [AR Page]
The Death Cure: 87,385 [AR Page]
Divergent: 105,143 [AR Page]
Insurgent: 106,028 [AR Page]
Allegiant: 110,354 [AR Page]
Harry Potter (Philosopher’s Stone): 77,325 [AR Page]
Harry Potter (Chamber of Secrets): 84,799 [AR Page]
Harry Potter (Prisoner of Azkaban): 106,821 [AR Page]
Harry Potter (Goblet of Fire): 190,858 [AR Page]
Harry Potter (Order of the Phoenix): 257,154 [AR Page]
Harry Potter (Half-Blood Prince): 169,441 [AR Page]
Harry Potter (Deathly Hallows): 198,227 [AR Page]
Throne of Glass: 113,655 [AR Page]
Crown of Midnight: 114,494 [AR Page]
Heir of Fire: 163,266 [AR Page]
Total (Incomplete Series): 391,415
Unwind: 95,297 [AR Page]
UnWholly: 116,298 [AR Page]
UnSouled: 116,477 [AR Page]
UnDivided: 106,465 [AR Page]
Twilight: 118,975 [AR Page]
New Moon: 132,758 [AR Page]
Eclipse: 148,971 [AR Page]
Breaking Dawn: 186,542 [AR Page]
By no means a YA series, but I was curious to find out just how dense A Song of Ice and Fire actually is:
A Game of Thrones: 292,727 [AR Page]
A Clash of Kings: 318,903 [AR Page]
A Storm of Swords: 414,604 [AR Page]
A Feast for Crows: 295,032 [AR Page]
A Dance with Dragons: 414,788 [AR Page]
Total (Incomplete Series): 1,736,054
And for my fellow Tolkien fans:
The Fellowship of the Ring: 177,227 [AR Page]
The Two Towers: 143,436 [AR Page]
The Return of the King: 134,462 [AR Page]
Obviously this isn’t a complete list. However there are some interesting findings in the word counts.
Firstly, most YA books are far longer than I expected. I thought most would hover around the 85k mark, but instead, almost every novel in the list was over 100k words. The expert writing style and pace makes the words fly from the pages.
Secondly is the strange revelation that Lord of the Rings, generally regarded as the ‘first epic fantasy’ series, is handily beaten by A Song of Ice and Fire (no surprise there), but also beaten by the Twilight Saga. This might be because Twilight had four books, rather than three, but in any case, it’s interesting to notice the relatively low word counts in Lord of the Rings compared to modern YA novels.
And finally, the word counts between books of the same series don’t follow any observable pattern. Hunger Games remained relatively flat (around 100k), while the Maze Runner novels became shorter; as most people know, Harry Potter ballooned around ‘Goblet of Fire’ and ‘Order of the Phoenix’, but tapered away; yet Divergent increased the word count by a few thousand each novel.
The entire Harry Potter series tips the scale at over a 1 million words, perhaps one of the only MG/YA series to do so. A quick check of the Percy Jackson series revealed the novels all staying around 89k per book, for a very rough total of 450,000 words. Most of the other series fell somewhere within the 300k-400k mark.
How Does this Apply?
You can use this information as you see fit. When writing a new novel, page counts are almost completely useless, as the ‘finished product’ varies drastically among publishers – everything from the font size to the page gutter can affect the number of pages.
Word counts – although flexible – are a useful guide, especially when plotting the number of chapters and drafting your work. Although I wouldn’t recommend pinning your whole novel around a magic number, it certainly helps to know how many words other authors used. Something around the 100k mark seems more ‘normal’ for YA than 85k does (which was my original guess).
In Summary: Use this information as a guide only. It’s a helpful collation of many popular books, and should be used as a reference. If your book wasn’t listed here, feel free to search for it on the AR website.
If you have any comments, please leave them below. Thanks for reading!