I've written short stories before (around 6,000 words), and I know what I have outlined is longer than a short story. But, I cannot decide if it is "novella length" or if it will break into "novel length". (I'm calling it "novel length" if it is more than 40,000 words. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Word_count)

It will certainly be the longest thing I've ever written, but I am not sufficiently experienced in longer works like this to know exactly how long it will be. Is there any good way to estimate how many words an outline will translate into when it is actually written? [edited: typo]

  • 5
    What purpose do you need the estimate for? (If you get it wrong, is that in any way a problem?)
    – Standback
    Mar 25, 2015 at 22:26
  • Agreed, it would help to know why you need to know how long the piece will be.
    – CLockeWork
    Mar 26, 2015 at 9:04
  • I think I am trying to figure it out because I want to estimate how much time it will take versus my interest in the story being told, if is going to end up being very long. I've started writing it, so I guess I will find out now.
    – Dean Cook
    Mar 26, 2015 at 21:24

1 Answer 1


Outlines vary in how much text they cover; some people might write a multi-page outline for the same content for which another would write:

Boy meets girl.
Boy loses girl.
Boy goes to mad-scientist school and builds a new girl.

So the only way to know how your outlines map to word count is to take samples. Compare your previous outlines to word counts of the resulting stories and see if there's a pattern.

If you don't have previous outlines, you're going to need to experiment. Try outlining one section (say, a few chapters -- whatever forms a logical sub-story for you), writing the story, and then using that to approximate the rest based on a full outline.

  • Thanks, this seems sensible, so I will go back and look at old outlines.
    – Dean Cook
    Mar 26, 2015 at 21:24

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