Monday, January 21, 2013

Does length matter?

Some time back, I blogged about something called flash fiction...fiction that was 25 words or less. Interesting, but not tempting.
According to wiki, the longest piece of fiction is Proust's Remembrance of Things Past, at nearly 1.5 million words...   that's 1,500,000... the longest English piece of fiction is L. Ron Hubbard's Mission Earth, which came in at a whopping 1.2 million words.
Again, interesting, but not tempting.

I feel a bit like Goldilocks here.  Too short, too long.. I'm trying to figure out what's just right.

A few months ago, I blogged about nanowrimo, where participants aim to write fifty thousand words of fiction, in 30 days.  Not everyone gets to fifty thousand... that's not a surprise, many of those attempting this, have families and jobs.. and even without that, this can be a daunting task.  The surprise is those who write over 100,000 words in November, or even those who keep writing after November, and get to 200,000 words or more.  Wow, if 50,000 words is about 175 pages, then 200,0000 words turns out to be something like 700 pages.

Maybe I'm missing something.  I'm not sure the last (first?) time I read a book of that size.  That's quite a commitment.  I don't mean a commitment on the part of the writer, I mean a commitment on the part of the reader.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not afraid of commitment... after all, I've been married over 30 years...  but I'm not sure I have the sort of commitment it takes, to begin a single book of that length.

But maybe I'm wrong, maybe I AM missing something.

So I thought I'd google around, to see what's what, with regard to book lengths.  Let's see, there's drabble, a piece of fiction that's exactly 100 words long.. then there's 55 Fiction.. which is a variation of drabble.. it's a piece that's exactly 55 words long.  Wow.  I thought the goal was to write something good, not something that met a mathematical requirement.  Even Nanowrimo acknowledges that the 50k you write in November won't be good, but it might get you on the road to having something good.

What else.

A short story is 3,000-5,000.. except I see lots of competitions out that that are looking for a short story of 1,500.  A novelette is 8k-15k  (wow.. that's quite a range)..  a novella is defined as 30k-40k... except when it's defined as 20k-60k, and a novel is 80k-100k, except when it's defined as 60-95k.

Well this isn't clarifying things at all.

Ahhh.. here's something interesting.   I found a blog called   The author is Colleen Lindsay.  Colleen used to be a book agent, and is currently part of the business development team at Penguin Group.  She notes that somehow, this myth (her word, not mine) developed that bigger was better.. especially for sci-fi and fantasy.  But that it is, indeed, just a myth.

Last week, I posted a blog entitled Does Size Matter?...   addressing this recent thing with the size of Subway sandwiches, and concluded that size doesn't matter... integrity matters.  But I keep thinking about that post, and sandwiches, and I feel I need to add that -- I LIKE Subway sandwiches, and I intend to keep buying Subway sandwiches.  Why?  Because they taste good.

Now, I re-read what I've written so far, today, and I realize this is just a variation of Does Size Matter. And while I'm not backing down from my conclusion that integrity matters... I think that perhaps when it comes to sandwich size, and book length, the better conclusion is that quality matters.

I'll let you know if I change my mind.. but for the moment I'm going to make a cup of Typhoo tea  (certainly, a quality tea), and try to stay warm.


  1. You know, I think you're better at this blogging stuff than I am. You always have a point, finely honed.

    Another good post.

  2. Quality over quantity, always! You are so right about that!