Thursday, March 6, 2014

Does Size Matter?

Written by Teresa Burrell
Author of The Advocate Series

The answer is that sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. We all know the real issue is quality, not quantity. However, if it’s too short, you can be left unsatisfied for sure. So, how long is long enough? This is the question I’ve been wrangling with for the last few weeks. Of course, I’m talking about the length of a novel, but you knew that, right?

I’m writing my latest novel and I do believe this one is going to be a little shorter than the rest because frankly, I’m just getting to the end quicker. Maybe I'm just getting better at this and it doesn't take as many words to make my point. Hmm... I could add another twist or turn, but if I add any more twists I fear my readers may be too dizzy to finish the book. And you never want them to say, “Yeah, that was a little too much.”

Most authors I know talk about the length of a novel in word count. Readers generally refer to it as page count. Several of my author friends say they write between 75 and 80,000 words. And I have to say, they write great novels! Most of my books in the past have been around 90,000 words; the last one was 93,000 because it took that long to get through all the suspects in the case. So I was concerned that if I make this one much shorter than that, my readers might feel cheated. Then I spoke with a dear author friend who said, “It’s too bad we have to worry about such things. I think it's different with ebooks. Just wrap it up and call it good. You’re working too hard.” This came from someone who starts writing at 5:00 in the morning and is churning out four books this year. Yeah, I’m the one working too hard!

So, here are my questions:

Authors: How long are your novels?

Readers: Do you ever consider the length of the book when you make a purchase? And has that changed with digital books?
This has nothing to do with my blog.
I just thought he was cute. 


  1. I saw a Facebook post from a top-selling midlist author to other writers, asking them to keep their thrillers to 60,000 words so his don't look too short. I'm sure he was only half teasing. I've set a minimum of 70,000 words for my books, so the page count comes in around 300. But honestly, I always get there without struggling. And I get reader comments that praise the fact that my stories don't seem padded and stretched-out like others do. I think readers are fine with shorter stories, as long as they're paying what feels like a fair price to them. And who can complain about a $4 or $5 ebook?

  2. I was "surprised" to turn in my last manuscript at under 90K. Usually, they're 100+. However, it was a mystery, not a romantic suspense, and I think the "shortness" can be attributed to not having to deal with the romance relationship character arcs in as much detail. I think that's the main difference, perhaps the only difference, in my mysteries vs my romantic suspense books.
    Terry's Place

  3. Mine are all right around 75,000. But it's the story that really should dictate the number of words. I've read a couple of books lately where the padding was evident and it ticked me off. I also felt bad for the author. I'd much rather read a 60,000 word story that was satisfying than an 80,000 word story that should have been shorter. And usually it's clear. And really, unless it's drastically short, it's not going to be quite so obvious as an ebook.

    Story rules.

  4. As a reader and book challenge addict, I get a little nervous when the page count tops 450, but I can always balance things out by seeking out shorter works. If I'm really enjoying a book, it doesn't matter how long it is.

  5. As a reader, I love chunky books. I'm not talking 600-page epic sagas, more 300-450 pages, something I can lose myself in for a day or two. When I buy for my Kindle, I do look at page count and file size.

    As a writer, I understand your pain Teresa! 100,000 words has always been my magic target for writing, don't know why, I'm strangely fixated on it! When I wrote the first draft of King's Crusade, I just about made 98,000 words and had palpitations. I felt I was going to cheat my readers as well since Soul Meaning was 104,000 +. Even though many people said they were surprised to get so much book for the price they paid.

    I now know that my target word count is higher than it needs to be for my genre but so far, I've managed to get there without adding padding. For Greene's Calling, I got to 106,000+ words because the story demanded it.

    However, I believe Book 5, the penultimate one in the series, might end up being a novella. I really can't see it going to 100,000 words. And I have a sci-fi horror short story that my editor believes should be lengthened into a novella or a full-length novel. So I'm going to have to learn to write less! (this may involve alcohol and moral support aplenty!)

    But a good story will be what it wants to be. A good story will tell the writer when the end is nigh. I think to deliberately make it longer will dilute the essence of its message.


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