Monday, July 16, 2012

Word counts for novels

I keep reading posts in writing forums where the the writer is fretting about their manuscript nearing 100,000 words. They seem to think there's a line at 100k that you must not go beyond under any circumstances -- and that 80,000 words is ideal for a novel. What planet are these people living on? And they say this line in the sand is drawn by potential book publishers. What?

I suspect all these people are from the new non-reading public even though they're allegedly writers. And perhaps publishers aim only for that market these days, thinking there are no real readers left.

Personally, I'm thrilled when a book that I'm enjoying goes on and on, and I've read many novels that were over 1,000 pages. In case you're not familiar with word counts, that's a hell of a lot more than 100,000 words -- more like a million or more. Length is something a writer shouldn't think about. If it's good, it's good. What does size have to do with it?

It's strange. I guess in the new YA (young adult) market, which seems to be the one most writers aim for these days, they like short books. You don't want to stress those readers' brains. But this is nonsense talk. Xmas Carol is well over 200,000 words -- and I don't think it's a long book at all. If I picked it up, I'd finish it in two or three days. That's too long?

A book that's only 80,000 or 90,000 words is a novella, the way I see it. And novellas suck. What's your opinion? Aren't you upset when a good book ends? You want it to go on forever, right? How could it be otherwise?