What Makes a Novel Long Enough?

Hey all!  I’m trying to make good on my promise to keep up with regular blog posts during NaPoWriMo.  After all, I’m just writing a poem a day, not cranking out 1,666 words a day.  If I could do some regular blogs during NaNoWriMo, I can do it during NaPoWriMo.

I had a blast out at instructor training this Saturday.  No idea why I was nervous for it.  I learned  a lot too, which is always great.  It’s always fun training with Coach Ray.  He really pushes you to your limit and knows just the way to correct your form.  I have no idea why my ankles hurt, though.  We weren’t doing any kicking!

Novel Length

As you all know, I’ve been working on getting my first novel, Opus Aria, published.  This has been an interesting process to say the least.  Most places don’t have a minimum word count, which is nice.  But some of the publishing houses I’ve been looking at (ones that do not require a literary agent) have some high word count minimums.  I always thought that a novel takes as long as it needs.  My novels average 50,000 words – 70,000 words.  I might be able to stretch it up to 90,000 words.  But the thing is, why is there a minimum?  This one agency, who’s name I will leave out, won’t look at a novel unless it is over 100,000 words.  According to their website, it makes them “uncomfortable.”

I always thought…

I had always figured that science fiction was shorter in comparison to fantasy.  Just look on the shelves at the bookstore. The classic science fiction looks positively petite next to the giant books for fantasy.  The Great Gatsby is just a hair over 50,000 words, I know its not science fiction, but my point stands.  Shouldn’t the story be judged on the content?  Not the word count?

I would rather read 50,000 words of amazing story than 200,000 words of fluff.  But that’s just me.  I like substance in my novels.

When Did the Length of a Novel Change?

There has always been a bunch of variety in novel length – but it seems that people are favoring longer novels.  Like I said before, I’d rather read a shorter but better story.  Novels don’t need to have 50 million plot lines.   Not everyone writes like that.  Not everyone can sustain that.  Also, I don’t believe novels actually need that many plot lines.  It just makes it overburdened.  What’s wrong with following one character and having them uncover the the underlying plot?

My novels will probably be marketed to a young adult audience because of their length.  I’m okay with this in some cases, but other novels of mine really aren’t for children.  Some characters really don’t hold their tongue and I’m not sugarcoating their language.

My Thoughts…

My thoughts on this is that a novel takes as long as it takes.  If that is 50,000 words, its still a novel.  The content determines if it is meant for adults or children.  If the novel is 400,000 words? AWESOME. But make sure its hardcover, its hard to manage that as a paperback…

I apologize for this.  This blog has been a longtime coming.  I’m frustrated that 100,000 words is the minimum at some places.  I won’t add 50,000 more words of fluff just to meet some arbitrary guideline.

What do you all think about this?



5 thoughts on “What Makes a Novel Long Enough?

  1. I completely agree with you – 50,000 words of great content is much better than 100,000 of fluff. 🙂
    When I recently had my novel edited, there were areas which they suggested could have been explained more fully though, or characters developed further in certain sections. I guess you’ve been thorough this process?

    • One of my beta-readers suggested adding a secondary narrator to beef up word count. But I can’t make him work in this novel. There are some scenes I have been working on expanding on – that might add another couple thousand. I think that’ll settle me in somewhere around 60,000 words.

      Thank you so much for the comment!

  2. Word count is tricky, tricky business. Science fiction novels are often expected to be longer than most types of fiction due to the stories dealing heavily with the description of new worlds or creatures or technology. But like you, I believe that content is more important that length. Too bad several publishers don’t share this same feeling.

    • It is tricky business. I always expect fantasy work to be longer because of the reasons you listed (add in magic as well).

      I’m glad there are other people out there who feel the same way. Thanks very much for the comment!

  3. Pingback: Revisiting Novel Length | Rants from a Starving Writer

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