How Many Words in a Memoir? Word Count by Genre

Last Updated on January 16, 2023 by Dr Sharon Baisil MD

Memoirs can be divided into a few different genres, and the word count can vary accordingly. This means that it’s important to know the average word count for each genre, in order to make an informed decision about whether or not to write a memoir. Here is a list of the average word counts for different memoir genres, so that you can get an idea of which one is right for you.

What is a memoir?

A memoir is a non-fictional first-person account of experiences and recollections from the author’s actual life. Memoirs (French meaning “memory” or “reminisce) are narrative accounts that emphasize personal experience, closeness, and emotional reality. Memoir writers frequently manipulate their recollections and actual life to create an excellent tale. As a result, memoirs are not beholden to chronological or factual precision standards.

A few well-known memoir examples include A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers and The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr.

The memoir manuscript has a word limit and the manuscript length is determined by the publisher. Generally, it will have around 100,000 words of text. The standard book size that publishers Standard Book Size 2X1 (40 x 28 cm) or 8vo (26 × 19 in). It generally contains between 250-300 pages depending on its theme and style This refers to one page of manuscript containing 250–300 characters per line — including spaces but excluding columns above each paragraph or quotation block.

Word counts of memoirs by genre

You might be asking how to write a memoir if you have a tale to tell and it just happens to be your tale. The task of writing a memoir might be very exhausting, yet very gratifying. Adjusting your perspective is, however, the first step. Most individuals who start out writing a memoir fail to realize that they’re not simply journaling their lives. By learning how to write a memoir, you are actually learning how to tell your story to a wider audience than just you, your friends, and your family. You are, in fact, hoping to get complete strangers interested in your life.

Every genre has different considerations; with nonfiction, if you’re choosing an agent before publication—as is more common these days—you might want to wait until after you’ve finished your manuscript, edited it, and had it professionally typeset. If you work with a literary agent who only represents manuscripts once they’re done (or almost done), then there may not be as much of an urgency for you to publish pre-conception. On the other hand, if your memoir is about personal experience and what has inspired or influenced you in life, publishing before conceiving would make sense because parts of the book are based on real events that happened before birth

Types of memoirs

1 – Personal event memoir

This might be a children’s story or a coming-of-age narrative, or it may relate to a major personal experience, such as divorce, sickness, dealing with abuse, dealing with loss, or living as an ex-pat. Every person has experiences, which can provide limitless sources of motivation.

Ideal word count of personal event memoir: 60,000 to 80,000 words.

2 – Spiritual quest memoir

Searching for spiritual significance and meaning is the subject of this book. The author might or might not touch on religious topics. He or she is a spiritual seeker. Ultimately, having experiences related to the soul and immaterial activities, which is known as spirituality, is part of being a human spirit. Spiritual memoirs like those written by the Dalai Lama often include discussions of peace, love, and mindfulness.

Ideal word count of spiritual quest memoir: 50,000 to 1,10,000 words

3 – Trial-to-triumph memoir

Heroes, survivors, and rags-to-riches tales are all fascinating to us. The difficulties that the writer goes through, as well as how he or she perseveres against all odds, are described in this type of memoir. The author shares important life lessons with readers without lecturing, and the triumph comes with them. The market for this kind of memoir is competitive.

Ideal word count of trial-to-triumph memoir: 30,000 to 90,000 words

4 – Novel-like memoir

This is a page-turning, enjoyable, and told-tale style of memoir. It has an intriguing storyline and a mix of tragic occurrences and magic. The writing style, like that in a novel, employs vivid and visual descriptions to pique the reader’s interest. The manner in which feelings are described is also interesting.

Ideal word count of novel-like memoir: 45,000 to 80,000 words

5 – Celebrity memoir

Famous people often write this kind of memoir. It doesn’t, however, need to be a famous person in order to write it. You may create a portrait book about someone you know well and are close to. Instead of writing from their perspective, write from yours. Celebrities are often marketed. As a consequence, readers are interested in any event involving them (or you).

Ideal word count of celebrity memoir: At least 65,000 words

6 – Activism or political memoir

Presidents, governors, and other government officials are frequently granted this distinction. Several prominent activists have also penned a book that offers life advice.

Ideal word count of political memoir: 50,000 to 1,10,000 words

7 – Adventure or travel memoir

A travel or adventure book is a book in which the author recounts their adventures, activities, and lessons learned. This sort of autobiography revolves around vivid descriptions of locations and unforgettable adventures. Several writers add personal anecdotes to emphasize the importance of their experiences.

Ideal word count of travel memoir: 45,000 to 80,000 words

8 – Portrait memoir

When it comes to the topic of the book, you’re the author, so you’re writing about your experiences. For example, Colin Clark authored a book based on his relationship with Marilyn Monroe that was turned into a film.

Ideal word count of portrait memoir: At least 65,000 words

To write any type of memoir successfully, You should aim to begin with an event that captures who you are, what your story’s core issue will be, or your theme. Next, choose a set of events that are relevant to the theme and outline them in order. After that, it’s about giving readers a glimpse into who you are as a person. This is achieved through careful use of flashbacks and backstories that enhance the current story, as well as a great deal of interiority (or access to thoughts, feelings, reactions, and inner struggle).

Final Words

As you can see, memoirs range in length greatly. Some are brief, while others may take years to convey. The decision of how much text to include can be challenging and there isn’t a fixed word count that works for all memoirs.

That said, if you write your memoir the right way, with honesty and inner wisdom flowing through it, people may not notice how long it took you to write or even care! Just remember not to sacrifice quality for quantity when writing your memoir!


How many words does an average book have?

There isn’t a definitive answer to this question because it can vary depending on the genre of the book, the style of writing, and other factors. However, according to The Guardian, books that are traditionally classified as “literature” typically have around 200-500 words per page. So while there is no maximum word count for books,200-500 may be a good average.

How many words should I limit my novel to?

Since it depends on the kind of book you’re writing, this is a tough question to answer. Limiting your words to around 75,000 might be appropriate if you’re writing a romance book, for example. On the other hand, if you are writing a thriller or horror story, then restricting yourself to 50-75 pages might be more suitable. Ultimately, as an author, it’s vital to experiment and see what works best for you. Remember that less is definitely more!

How many words are in an average chapter in a novel?

 It is difficult to give an exact number, as the number of words in a chapter can vary significantly depending on the genre and style of writing. However, it is safe to say that a typical novel typically contains between 30,000 and 50,000 words.

How do you decide on a word count for your novel?

As a novel writer, you have many options when it comes to determining your word count. Some people prefer to write strictly in accordance with the classic 80/20 rule, which states that for every 20 pages of content, there should be at least 8 pages of writing. Others may opt for a 50/50 split between dialogue and exposition, while others still might choose 75% dialogue and 25% exposition. Ultimately, experimenting and discovering what generates the greatest readable and compelling writing is the best method to find out what works for you.
One thing that’s worth noting is that sometimes longer books require more editing than shorter ones do. So don’t be afraid to tweak your word count until it feels right – just make sure that you’re always moving forward rather than backward!

Should I include photos and other personal documents in my memoir?

Yes, you should include photos and other personal documents in your memoir if they are relevant to the story. Not only will this add depth and dimension to your narrative, but it can also help connect readers with your experiences. Additionally, including photos can be a great way to show off your creative side by showcasing artwork or photographs that reflect the unique elements of your life story.
Finally, don’t forget about anecdotes and stories that illustrate key points in your memoir. By taking the time to include these inset details, you will make sure that readers get a complete picture of who you are as an individual.


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