As I approach the new year and a return to writing novels, it’s gotten me thinking about novel length.
Back in the day, say the 1950s and 60s, we saw novel length at around 50k words, give or take. Fast forward to the 1980s where publishers were pushing for huge books in order to sell/ship more paper, novels got a lot longer. My favorite writer ever, Stephen King, probably didn’t help much with books like The Stand and It. Dude can produce some words, for sure.
But it’s not the 1980s anymore. The 90s have come and gone (those were the days), then into the new millennium and beyond. Here we sit now at the cusp of 2023, and I’m looking at the entertainment landscape. Books are just entertainment in the end, and that means I have to compete with dozens of other distractions. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, movies, all the cool shit that’s now on cable TV…the list goes on.
Point is, attention spans are shorter these days. I don’t blame the millennials or Gen Z for that; it just is what it is. Everything happens faster now and everything is vying for our attention.
I already write “shorter” books, by comparison to 80s standards. My books tend to hit 75K words or so. If I write a 40-50k word book now, I call it a “novella”. That same book fifty years ago would have been considered a novel.
I like writing shorter books. I have a short attention span due to my ADD, so it suits me well to get in, tell the story as fast and as succinctly as I can, and then write the next book. By the time I’m finished with a book, I’m already bored with it, so the shorter the book the more fun it is for me. The more fun for me, the better the book. The better the book, the happier the reader. The happier the reader, the more books I sell. Rinse and repeat.
Here’s where I’m landing…I think that my novels will, on average, probably drop in length. If the story demands a longer book then so be it, but I don’t want to force extra words by having to add in additional subplots or superfluous descriptions. The story will be however long it needs to be and then it’ll get priced depending on length. Longer books take longer to write and edit, so it seems fair to charge more for them. Plus, the reader is getting more, so it seems like a win-win.
Pricing is a topic unto itself, really. I don’t want to muddy the waters here with it, but do think that I’m going to kick up my novels by a buck before year’s end. Regardless, longer = more $. That equation stays the same, regardless of what you name it.
I may be done with the whole novella/novel naming thing altogether now. Going forward, I can see a 50k+ length work as a novel, but not all novels are priced the same. Seems easy enough to follow and fair for both reader and writer.