Watch the word count 85,000, 90,000, 100,000…

I was interested to read an article in the newspaper recently which discussed the new fashion of shorter novels to fit in the the e reader life style. Novellas are coming back into fashion, as are short stories, bite commuter sized reads to while away the hour travelling by train.

When I wrote   ‘Riduna’ I did not think of an optimum length. I just wrote the story until it was finished and, although the editorial process was fairly vigorous, it did not run to cutting out chunks of the novel to make it shorter.

Thus the final word count was just over 102,000 words; (Not 200,000 as mentioned in one newspaper article and I’m not sure whether it was a slip of the tongue on my part or a slip of the pen on behalf of the journalist! I’ll give the journalist the benefit of the doubt since I was quite nervous to be interviewed in those early days)  The actual word count of 102,000 seemed ok for a first novel but larger than the optimum count I’ve heard mentioned of 85,000 since.

I hoped to aim for nearer 85,000 for my second novel, which I hope to be out before the end of the year, but even then I have finished up with over 98,000. Unlike Riduna, which is a very gentle book describing the weaving in and out of island life through the eyes of my key characters until half way through when the pace quickens and every page is full of drama as the saga unfolds, my new novel is action packed throughout. It would take an expert with an independent eye to trim it down, if it was felt necessary to do so.

In my eyes the length  (within reasonable parameters) makes little difference  to a paper based novel, so long as the story is compelling and the characters believable, except maybe in the temptation to decrease the size of print, but is it the same for e books? If my publisher were to bring Riduna out as an e book would it be better to offer an abridged version?

I’m inclined to think the answer is ‘yes.’ What do you think?


Filed under Planning a novel, Riduna, Writing, Writing a novel

2 responses to “Watch the word count 85,000, 90,000, 100,000…

  1. Two replies on Facebook

    L Sydney Abel – That’s true! But most of my stories are between 7,000 to 20,000 words. That’s the beauty of writing for younger children. Saying that, my book for older children (9-14) is 92,000 words. All the potters are over that, so who’s right and who’s wrong. Are you writing for your love of writing or for the fashion. And we all know how fashions change.

    Mark Palmer – As an avid reader, the length of the book is immaterial to its ability to enthrall, I find that if a book grips me, I’ll read it from beginning to end in one sitting, 18hours for a Wilbur Smith is my longest marathon to date… based on this I’d go for the short story option out of choice!!! I read the JXIIH trilogy in a weekend

  2. We continued this debate at our Albion Writers’ Group last night and I think the consencus of opinion is that it’s great that ‘anything goes’ now. Shorter Novellas are now more popular but that’s not to say that a longer tome is out of fashion. We saw this as increasing opportunites for us as writers which is great news. Thanks Mark and Lawrence for your comments too!

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