Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Creative Writing: How Long Should Your Novel (or Short Story) Be?

Dear Readers,
Not too long ago, I had a conversation with a writer whose novel manuscript was 200,000 words. His literary agent told the writer to cut his work.

I gasped, thinking of how horrible it must be for him to hack his work. I asked if he could make a sequel instead, as in Book 1, Book 2, Book 3, and Book 4 -- for indeed 200,000 words can make four short novels. No, this person said. He had to go back into his work and throw out huge sections.

But why? I insisted.

The writer's agent said generally publishers will not consider long novel manuscripts; they generally do not publish long novels primarily because of expense. Really long manuscripts are suspects of poor editing, and there is an assumption that readers will not read very long works, that these are unreadable.

 I recall reading about Thomas Wolfe's  first novel, Look Homeward Angel, and how the manuscript was cut to 60,000 words by his editor, Maxwell Perkins of Scribner. Perkins had felt guilty for hacking up good work and feared those portions were forever lost; he was surprised to find that sections of the hacked-off part surfaced in Wolfe's subsequent works. Wolfe's first novel, by the way, is one of my favorites.

I decided I don't want that to be in a position where I'd have to cannibalize my work.

Don't laugh, dear Readers, but while it was pulling teeth to get pages, now I feel a momentum in my novel, a sense that I could explore events and characters some more and keep cranking out the pages.

Here's what I found out about word length of the manuscripts, not just of the novel, but other genres::

Adult fiction - 50,000-115,000 words, with 90,000 being a "good" length

Youg adult - 50,000-90,000 words

Novella - 20,000-50,000

Novelette - 7,500-20,000

Short story - 1,500-7,500; with around 5,000 being a "good" length

Short short - 750 - 1,500, with around 1,000 being a "good length"

So, there you are dear Readers. Remember, these figures are not set in stone. Art comes into play, always.

This is all for now,

Read also

  • Before You Write, Try Clustering
  • Leonard Bercovici Legacy "Get into the Head of Your Character"
  • Make a Date with the Muse
  • Creative Writing: The Importance of Sensual Writing

  • Creative Writing: Journal Writing and my Pink Lock and Key Diary
  • Creative Writing: Your Writing Work Space (In My Case, Where My Cats Hang Out)
  • Creative Writing: Two Important Rules
  • Creative Writing: Explosion and Drawing as Writing Exercises
  • How to Write a Novel #1

  • How to Write a Novel #2
  • tags: word length, manuscript, novel, novella, how long, short story, short short, writing, book, story, fiction, publisher, agent, literature, submission
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