Posts Tagged ‘How long is a piece of string?’

Stringing words together is what we writers do. But when it comes to novel writing, how long should that piece of string be?

That was a question recently posed by a regular reader of this blog and I thought others might be interested in the answer.

Dust, my soon-to-be-published first novel was done and dusted, at 50,000 words – quite acceptable for young adult fiction. My second is only halfway there at 44,000 words. It’s adult and crime. So clearly genre and intended readership impact on novel length.

If you know your genre and the intended market for your fiction, but are a little hazy on word length, read this rather excellent post by literary agent Colleen Lindsay On word counts and novel length..

She confirms my own belief that less is more, particularly for emerging writers.

Making it shorter can take longer; that’s what the edit phase is for. But if you are over the minimum word count expected for your genre and you’ve tied off all the narrative strands by the time you get to your heart-stopping ending, then type a full stop. You are done.

Any more and you risk ending up like that poor sad author in the movie Sideways, desperately trying to interest someone, anyone, in your 700,000 word magnum opus.

Maybe I’m defaulting to the old journalistic setting here – get it right, keep it tight – but I believe that creating something small and beautifully formed is more likely to win you friends, and influence agents and publishers in your favour, than laying a daunting door-stopper on them.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.