Too Long? Too Short? On Your Novel’s Length

We are the novels. Your book will be assimilated.
We are the ideal novels. Your book will be assimilated.

Finishing a novel is a moment of triumph–or at least, it should be. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s only a moment of disappointment and frustration that the book that you typed out successfully isn’t the book that you had in mind when you started writing. Maybe it’s so long it should really be several books… or maybe it’s so short that it’s not even really a book at all. Most published novels seem to fall between 250-500 pages printed out or double-spaced (half that if you type single-spaced pages), and with that kind of guideline it can be hard to measure up. So how concerned should you be about the length of your novel?

First of all, you need to keep everything in perspective. Whatever length your novel is and whatever length you want it to be, you should never sacrifice the quality of your writing to idealize the look of the book. Don’t add fluff to give it length, and don’t cut your descriptions to make it shorter.

You need to be willing to be flexible. Many writers have adopted the form of the novella for their stories, and trilogies and series of books are very popular with today’s literary market. Your novel might not be a novel at all, and that could be a good thing if you’re willing to acknowledge it and work with it. Chances are, there’s nothing wrong with your novel except that, well, it’s not a novel.

There is a more negative conclusion. Your novel’s length (or lack thereof) might be a symptom of poor writing on your part. The good news is that the solution is simple. If you’re given to flowery writing and suspect that might be the cause of your excess length, then go through your draft and cut out everything unnecessary. If you know that you don’t have enough content, it might be a bit trickier to find a solution. I recommend picking a scene, any scene, and working through it sentence by sentence, building it up and trying to make it all the more vivid for the reader. Don’t be flowery, just stay on the alert for anything you could say or mention that could help make your story more enjoyable to read.

Over all, keep in mind that length isn’t everything. Great stories come in all shapes and sizes, and don’t be afraid to let your novel (or novella!) into the world with its unique length and voice.

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