Monday, July 28, 2014

Define Novel Length

After almost a solid month of plotting, characterization, pacing, and creating setting, I finally wrote the last sentence to my new novel before I start the revision process. Feeling elated I sat back in my office desk chair and beamed, enjoying the pleasurable sensations of finishing this stage of the project. Then suddenly, I was stricken with horror. I had written the story to completion. There was nothing more I could say or add to the story. It was done in my mind.

But… it is only 16,000 words!

Being a first draft, I know I can expand the scenes and probably drag out another 20,000 words turning this into a 36,000 word manuscript. But I wonder, is that long enough? My fears were quickly assuaged as I began researching the top selling indie authors.

It seems the days of minimum novel-length requirements have passed. Many authors are selling tens of thousands of copies of their 99 cent 20,000 word stories and getting rich doing it. Lucinda Wilde is one example. Her (it’s actually a husband and wife collaboration) 10,000-20,000 romance novels are selling in droves. Readers want quick fixes these days and are not offended to shell out a little money for a few hours’ worth of reading entertainment. Attention spans are short and so are many of the bestselling indie books.

Being able to write, publish, and sell a story or novella is not an exact science. The short novella must be top notch. It must grab the reader right away and addictively string them along until the story’s conclusion. There can’t be any wasted scenes or oddly, off-putting dialogue. The story must be streamlined and awesome.

Many writers will argue that a 15,000 or 20,000 word novel is not a novel but a glorified short story. They argue that a book this length would never make it in the mainstream, and they are right. But today’s indie author isn’t writing for the mainstream, they are writing because they have stories to tell that are outside of the mainstream. Stories that for whatever reason the big publishing houses thought they couldn’t make a profit on. That doesn’t necessarily mean the stories aren’t worth the public’s attention, only that the corporate numbers didn’t pan out.

Going over my first draft, I can’t seem to find where I could add more plot. The story is finished as it is and adding fluff will only lessen the impact. As I begin the revision process I’m empowered by the fact that there are no minimum requirements for an excellent story. I write scenes that make the story strong not just to fill empty pages. My dialogue is tight; not drawn out to add to the final word count. This freedom to write stories without the leaden weight of a corporate marketing and financial responsibility is what is revolutionizing the publishing industry and the writer as an artist as a whole.