It’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae of calculating and recalculating your story length in pages and word counts while trying to put down your novel. Especially for new writers, hefty word counts feel good. Long stories seem to indicate writing stamina. In my opinion, hefty word counts mean nothing more than typing stamina.
Blaise Pascal once said, “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” Writing is re-writing. Even more: writing is deleting. Constantly calculating your word to page conversion while putting down your prose does not help. Word count has nothing to do with good story telling.
However, with all of this considered, it is important to target your work, and determine in which niche it fits. Small word counts mean you must build a quick character arch. You must get to the weighty decisions your character has to make early. You have to propel your readers straight to the point of your story. Big word counts mean you have time to explore character, as long as every chapter hosts rich conflict.
Here is a guideline on word counts and story classifications.
Flash fiction = 1,500 or less word count
Short story = 1,500 to 7,500
Novelette = 7,500 to 17,500
Novella = 17,500 to 40,000
Novel = anything above 40,000
That being said, 40,000 words makes a pretty short novel. On an average, 250 to 350 words make up a page of novel print, depending on type face, leading, and margins. Many of these attributes are determined by the genre of the story. Young adult fiction usually has less words per page than adult fiction.
When publishers look for new authors, they tend to want word counts between 80,000 to 110,000. Anything less is too short; anything more is too long. These word counts translate, with consideration to chapter headings, to page counts of 310 to 475 pages.
When working your way through a story, start with a good plan, a good outline, and plenty of character research. Once you have done all of your preparation work, start with your first word. When your story is finished, stop writing. Only after this process should you worry about word count.