Unless you're Stephen King or J.K.Rowling the word count of your novel is really important. If it's below 40,000 words it's a novella, nothing wrong with that, unless you want it published. The problem with having a very small word count/novella is that agents won't want to sell it to the big publishers as financially it's not worth their time and if you want to be published by one of the giants you'll need to have representation in order to get them to read your work..
So in short only novels will interest an agent.
Word count requirements are different within the literary genres. Young adult fiction can get away with having a shorter word count of 55-70k whilst fantasy novels can be a whopping 120k without it seeming too long. So,generally speaking, unless your novel is YA fiction your word count must be at least 70,000.
If you have a word count that is below this, don't panic. Remember that the first hurdle is out of the way. You've committed your story to paper, that's a huge achievement, give yourself a pat on the back and maybe reward yourself with a big glass of wine.
What you need to do now is stop writing. Don't even think about your novel for at least a few weeks or even a few months so that you can forget about it. This way when you next read it you'll be seeing it with a fresh perspective. You'll be amazed at what jumps out at you screaming for attention. Is your novel clear, is it scary where it's supposed to be scary, funny where it meant to get a chuckle or two? Are there any major plot holes? Once you've got a first draft done it may be a good idea to ask a friend to read it who will offer gentle feedback at this delicate stage.
Next when you are ready to start your second draft, and there's no rush, follow these tips for increasing your word count.
Top Tactics for Increasing the Word Count in Your Novel
Adding more description can really dramatically increase your word count but don't just add in loads of descriptions as this will render your story dull. Only add what is needed and remember the golden rule; show, don't tell. If your character finds themselves alone in a dark alley with an axe murderer just describe what the scene looks like. Tell your reader about how the characters feeling tell them about what they're hearing, what their smelling etc.
If your novel takes place in a another world or time period make sure you have done your research and add little titbits of world building to make your story feel authentic.
Add a Sub Plot
Now that you've got your core story written out why not think about adding a subplot to give your story some extra depth. Utilise all your characters don't just focus on bringing your main characters to life. Take a look at your secondary ones and see if any of them have a tale of their own worth telling. A great novel is one that is character driven with truly memorable characters such as the Harry Potter series. Remember to make sure it links in and complements your main plot, make sure it is necessary to telling your story.
A really cheeky way to increase your word count in a novel is to throw a spanner in the works that may distract or hinder your protagonist from their quest in the form of another character, event or situation.
Connect Your Scenes and Situations
Make sure that the story arc of your story isn't simply moving from A to B to C. Make sure their are adventures along the way and that they add to your readers experience of your novel. This is so much fun to do and can also take your novel to new heights.
About the Author
S.J.Budd is a writer of all things weird and creepy. Previously her tales have been featured on Deandman's Tome, Sanitarium Magazine, Dark Gothic Resurrected, Liquid Imagination, Aphotic Realm, Aurora Wolf, Aphelion, Blood Moon Rising Magazine, The Wild Hunt, Danse Macabre, Shadows at the Door, Inner Sins, Bewildering Stories, Siren's Call and many more.
Spells and Persuasions, her debut collection of short stories of horror and dark fantasy is available now in paperback and kindle from Amazon