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The title says it all. How can I gauge how long my novel would be, if for example I've written 400 single-spaced pages of size 12 Times New Romans in Microsoft Word?

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6 Answers 6

I went ahead and broke it down: Give or take, the average paperback has 250-350 words per page. Thats 35 lines at 10 words per line. Of course some of those lines may only have 3 or 4 words (for dialogue). So again we're at, say, 300 words. take your total word count and divide it by 300. that'll give you an idea, not accurate down to the letter but still a pretty good idea. I used James Pattersons "3rd degree" and Dean Koontz's "Odd Hours" for reference as they were closest to me atm.

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Not sure if you're a teenager or just someone with poor social skills, but I'm the individual who asked this question and I don't appreciate answers like this. Not sure what sort of effect you're going for but you have to try to think about how you would perceive someone talking to you this way. StackExchange is a really great series of sites....try to be friendly to others and you can learn a lot from this community. – Aerovistae Jun 10 at 22:53
Like, you could have made a useful answer by just mentioning the core information which you provided, leaving out all the pretentious and derogatory remarks which add nothing. – Aerovistae Jun 10 at 22:58
Nick, your answer is offensive and rude. Its a rule that users on this site need to be nice to other users. I've edited your answer so it's in line with this requirement. Please see that any future contributions you make here are considerate towards other users. – Neil Fein Jun 11 at 4:21
Ironically, this answer boils down to what was said in the top answer: Take your total word count and divide by 250 (or 300). [And note the 20% difference you get, just by following different rules of thumb, which partly substantiates the pessimistic answer from @spiceyokooko.] – dmm Jun 11 at 18:33

You can set a page size in Word. Don't use 8.5 x 11, use whatever the real, final page size will be. Also set the correct margins. If you're self-publishing and producing your own master, you can produce the PDF or whatever format directly from this and you'll know exactly what will be on every page. But even in general, it will at least give you a rough idea of how much fits on each page and how many pages the final book will be.

I did my second book with the intended final page size and margins in Word and I found that helpful to give me a feel for how long chapters would look, as well as to help me keep toward my targetted total length. In my case I figured that 250-300 pages was a good length for that particular book and I had it divided into five sections so I wanted at least roughly 50 pages each. So as I was working I had a feel for whether I was beeing too wordy or not wordy enough, whether I needed more material or had to trim, etc.

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It's almost impossible to be able to calculate this without knowing the final format the printed work will be in. There are a huge number of variables that will all have an impact on the length of the text -

The font chosen, the type size, the linefeed (font leading), the paragraph spacing, the hyphenation settings, whether the text is justified or unjustified, the kerning, the letter and word spacing, the text column width, the text column depth, the likely number of footnotes and so on.

Without really knowing these parameters any estimation will only be a very rough one which could be out by as much as 40-50%.

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The standard way of calculating word count, aside from simply using the "word count" feature of your word processor, is to format your document in standard submission format and then multiply the number of pages by 250. This is the technique that was used back in the days before computers could instantaneously count the number of words in a document. It also has the incidental advantage of accounting for the actual length of your paragraphs on the page, so that long passages of dialogue (which consist of lots of short paragraphs) or lists are correctly adjusted for.

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This doesn't make sense to me. This implies that a 50 page document would come out to a 12500 page book.....50 pages * 250. Can you make this clearer? – Aerovistae Jun 10 at 22:51
@Aerovistae: 250 words / page. Not sure the answer is that helpful, but I think what he means is that, to get a (standard) page count from a word count, you can do the inverse of what used to be done to get a word count from counting standard pages. So, do a word count with a word processor, then DIVIDE by 250 to get the number of standard pages. – dmm Jun 11 at 18:23
maybe just convert Word pages to words, (or look up word count) and then convert words to pages using an average from the format you want your book in, like paperback by Tor. – Reed Jun 12 at 3:55

If you are using Word to create your manuscript, then you can use Word Count to find its length and work from there.

I would expect typical text (whatever that is) set in 12 point Times New Roman to contain approximately 600 words (4000 characters) per page. So a 400 page manuscript would be about 240,000 words.

That will be a big book! The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova is around that size and it weighs in at 900 pages in paperback.

Have you considered whether your magnum opus would "work" in two volumes?

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Oh good god I haven't really written 400 pages. It was just a number. I wish I had that kind of time. – Aerovistae Dec 11 '12 at 3:41
Assuming of course that the finished novel will also be printed in 12pt Times, which is unlikely. It's more likely to be in a smaller size (depending on the typeface/font chosen) such as 9pt. This of course depends on the format it would be printed in - large format hardback is generally a larger font size than the paperback equivalent. Your method therefore is unreliable. – spiceyokooko Dec 11 '12 at 19:22
No it is not unreliable, @spiceyokooko. I made NO ASSUMPTIONS about the typeface of the final book, other than to select a particular title (which I named) and to give its {wordcount, page} values. That provides a rule of thumb that is as good as any other. – Fortiter Dec 12 '12 at 7:43

I cheated once: I pulled a book off my shelf and recreated it (in InDesign, but you might be able to do it in Word). Page size, margins (I used a ruler), font, type size, everything. Once I recreated what was on the page, I had a gauge for size. Then I dumped my current work into that, and I had a rough idea of how long my "novel" was.

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This is so funny. – Aerovistae Jun 11 at 18:26
This answer needs more upvotes. – Amin Mohamed Ajani Jun 23 at 22:51
@Aerovistae - Why's it funny? It's actually fairly logical in the era of WYSIWYG editors. You won't be able to control all of the specifics your publisher will in something basic like MS Word or AOO Writer, but InDesign/FrameMaker/QuarkXpress were written specifically to allow this level of control. The only question is cost. – KeithS Oct 21 at 18:45
It's an especially obsessive thing to do, the sort of thing only someone who really, really cares is going to go to the trouble of doing. Like someone actually measuring the inches in a football field to make sure it's built to the right specifications. And if you've read enough of Lauren's posts and have an inkling of her general character then it's funny just because it totally suits her. – Aerovistae Oct 21 at 18:55
@Aerovistae - Meh. The four things Lauren gave as basic measurements for print layout would take maybe 2 minutes to set up in Word. Kerning, line and paragraph spacing widths of hyphens and em-dashes, real typesetter stuff, that would be obsessive IMO especially if you bought InDesign or FrameMaker for the purpose, but along the lines of the question regarding converting a handwritten manuscript to type, I wouldn't consider it a bad thing to know your approximate page count. And I do find Lauren's excesses funny :-) – KeithS Nov 5 at 15:23

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