Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Is my NOVEL too short?

Is my novel too short, officer?

Yes, it jolly well is! Much too short, in fact! 12,000 words too short! And I’m arresting you for claiming you’ve written a novel, when in fact you haven’t. It’s a novella.


A novella is a short novel.

Oh, okay. But I want it to be a novel. Trouble is I’ve edited it for the final time, and it’s ready to go. Oh yes, indeed!

Except it’s not, is it? Because it’s too blinking short! *do police officers say blinking?*

No wait – but it is a novel. Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan is under 60,000 words.

But you’re not Ian McEwan, are you?

Well no, but Wikipedia told me a novel is anything from 40,000 words upwards.

Ah, but I’m a member of the writing police and I know everything. Now what exactly are you going to do about your sadly lacking word count?

Well I guess I could look at my cast and add a little more characterization, a little more depth here and there. I've noticed, too, at the very end of my novel, I’ve summed up some of the lesser known characters with too much telling – so I could show those bits with new scenes.

Yes, but the thing you don’t want to do is fill your story with too many unnecessary words and sentences that do nothing to move the plot forward.

Righty ho, then - off to make my story a little longer - back soon!

Okay, so that’s the novel news! What else have I been up to?

Well, I’ve had a fistful of short story rejections. In fact I’m *this* close to giving up on Take A Break! But then something drives me on. Perhaps it’s the lovely paper they write their rejections on!

On a POSITIVE, I SOLD my FIFTH story to Thats Life! Australia – I so love that magazine! I also had a wonderful email from Jill Finley at The Weekly News, who is back after maternity leave (many congratulations to her!) giving reasons why she didn’t buy my story but saying she would love to read more of my stuff - YAY! And I received a similar letter from Woman’s Weekly with the same kind of comments. So I’m getting there – slowly – slowly - slowly - quick - quick - actually no, just slowly!


Becky said...

It must be so frustrating to have to bulk out your story when you feel that it is already complete and balanced. I enjoyed Chesil beach and actually the small size of it was one reason I selected it, for a quick read.
Keep going. You are doing really well and you are an inspiration!!! :-)

Lane Mathias said...

I have a similar problem but it seems until you're established, you've got to stick to the criteria regarding length . Pah:-(

Big congrats on your sale!

Old Kitty said...

yay!!!!! Congratulations with selling your short stories and getting wonderful and positive feedback from these fab mags!!

And good luck with your novel(la). I'd love to meet a police person that said "blinking" andn "ello, ello, ello"!

Well done you!!!

take care

D..J. Kirkby said...

I reached this point with 'Without Alice', maanged to get it up to 64,000 words but no further. When a piece of writing is done, it's done!

jenny wilson said...

congratultion on your shorty story successx

Fiona Mackenzie. Writer said...

It seems so unfair but have you thought of posting any or all on the secret blog? I'd love to read it. I'd love to read anything to stop me feeling bad about not writing :)

Send me a shopping list or something.

Deborah Carr (Debs) said...

Congratulations on the sale that's wonderful news and good luck with your book.

DAB said...

Keep going Ms Allsorts :)

Caroline said...

Hi Amanda! Join the club1 My current wip is 9k short. So I'm full of sympathy.

Fingers crossed on the short stories tho'.

Caroline x

Colette McCormick said...

Maybe you should send it out "as is," then if an agent/publisher sees potential in it they could maybe suggest where it could be changed. The last thing you want to do (in my opinion fo rwhat its worth) is fluff the story out with things that don't move it forward.
Well done on the sales.

Amanda said...

Thanks Becky. :-) It’s so tricky, Becky , it’s making my head spin! X

That’s what I was told by my tutor, Lane. It seems you can break the rules – but only what’s you’ve proved you can obey them! *BUM* :-)

Or ‘what’s going on ‘ere then’ – which sums my situation up perfectly. Thanks for the congrats, Old Kitty! ;-)

That’s really interesting, DJ - a thought to ponder on! And congrats again on Without Alice - you clever lady!!

Thank you Jenny :-)

You know I was tempted to run it past the members, Fia - may put on a chapter next month - If I don't have I wild moment and send it off! Hope you get writing again very soon! X

Thanks Debs :-)

Thank you TF :-)

It’s so hard isn’t Caroline? It just feels ready to fly – but it can’t because it hasn’t got big enough wings! X

It is very tempting, Colette, I must admit. But I’m so worried they'll see the word count and won't give it a second look!

Karen said...

Great post.

At least it's not an arrestable offence and easily remedied!

I found that writing a few new scenes for mine (showing not telling!) really helped up the wordcount as well as improving the story :o))

(Not that I think your story needs improving ... oh you know what I mean!!)

Flowerpot said...

Well done Mandy on the publication front - you're doing brilliantly. I was always told a novel should be between 80-100,000 words. Good luck!

Carol said...

Well done you on your sales!! You should be very proud of yourself!!

I dont really have any writerly advice so I won't try and give you any :-)

C x

Jenny Beattie said...

Wow, another sale. Congratulations Amanda.

And yes, the novel length... I'd say you have to be careful about bulking it out as it could stick out like a sore thumb!

Amanda said...

Thanks Karen - and I know what you mean ;-))

Thank you FP :-) Yes, I think I should be aiming at 80,000 - although when I sent it out before the agent was happy to read it at 75,000. I think it can depend a little on the genre you're writing.

Thank you, Carol :-) x

I seem to be doing well in OZ, JJ - perhaps I should move there - I certainly wouldn't mind! And yes, I've read novels that have obviously been bulked out - and it does show!

HelenMWalters said...

Being too short is someties even trickier than being too long isn't it? If something's too long it can be quite good fun to give it a trim. Im sure you'll get there though.

Amanda said...

You're so right, Helen! I love making pieces of writing shorter!

Unknown said...

Well done on your sales! And don't give up on TaB - you'll get there very soon.

As for the word count, I'm sure that if you flesh bits out (that's 'add depth' rather than 'pad' :o)), your story will be much stronger. Good luck with it!

Amanda said...

Thanks Shirley! I will keep on going with TAB, they don't get away that easily ;-)

Thanks for the tips on the word count too. X

David said...

Fantastic news on another sale Amanda. The ozzies love ya and having been luck enough to read some of your stories I can see why!

Don't give up on TAB though. I get the feeling they must be like People's Friend in that they have a very specific idea of what they want. When you read their guidlines you think yup I've done that and that and that. But there must be something else that they are holding out for. That elusive X factor!!! You WILL get there with them I'm sure.

Good luck with the novel editing. Must be tougher to add in that take away.


Amanda said...

Thank you David! I do so love those Aussies. I really must send some more over to them.

Yes, TAB is a tricky one to please, and PF, as you say. I won't give up with them - I think it will be like winning the lottery if I ever crack one of them.

Yes, really hard to add to a novel, without looking like you've added, if you know what I mean.


Anonymous said...

i'm having an issue. I wanted to write a story down forever, but i am rushing through the exciting parts and i can't spread it out without it being boring. Also, I decided this was going to be a whole series and i am already thinking about the other books. HELP!

Amanda said...

Hi Juliette ... thanks for dropping by!

It's so hard to get the pace right in a story/novel. I always struggle and not sure what the answer is. Perhaps you could add more gestures, smells and brief descriptions etc, etc to spread it out.