Friday, July 30, 2021

Writiing: How Long?

 Lincoln was supposedly asked how long a man's legs should be, to which he allegedly replied, "Long enough to reach to ground." Too many of us--and I was once a member of this group--slavishly held our writing to certain standards, including length. The novels were supposedly about 30 thousand words (25 K to 35 K, say). Novels were longer, running 75,000 to 120,000 words (although I thought, privately, that nothing could hold my interest for more than 100 K words). These numbers varied from house to house, but you get the picture. There were limits, or at least, target lengths.

Since I started publishing my writing myself, rather than getting the help of a publisher in printing and marketing (and believe me, it can be nice to call on them), I haven't had to hold to any given length. My last "novel," Critical Decision, ran to 180 printed pages, and the typescript was a bit over 58,000 words--too long for a novella, too short for a novel. But that's how long I thought it should be--no need to add extra words or remove others. I published it. And I'm doing the same with my next one.

Do you think the length factor is overemphasized? Or does it even matter. Let me know.


Priscilla Bettis said...

I do think the length factor is over emphasized now that publishers and readers can enjoy ebooks. There's not the complication of trying to print a too-short book or a too-wieldy book. So I say let the story be as long as it needs to be, but also let reviewers feel free to criticize the length.:-)

Richard Mabry said...

I felt freed when I could let let the book go on for as many words as it took, then end it, without thinking of whether it was a novel, novella, or in-between. (And I would never let one go on for 120K words--I don't have that much to say, I guess).

Patricia Bradley said...

Richard and Priscilla, I've been told that those who read on e-readers prefer the shorter novels--55,000-65,000 word counts--and I'm glad. Personally, I think a book should be as long as it takes the author to tell the story! the count doesn't matter.

I've also been told the main reason traditional publishers have a set word count is so they can fit X-amount of books in a box to ship. I know that's true of Harlequin. :-)

Richard Mabry said...

Patricia, I've heard the same thing, among others. I realize that the editor needs to know about the size of the book, to plan things about publication, including things I probably don't know about. All I really can say, as an author, is that I write until the story is told and all the loose ends are tied up, and then I quit.