Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Thoughts on Novel Length

Yesterday I topped 100K words in the novel I'm writing. It got me thinking about novel length. These days, the general consensus seems to be most readers enjoy novels in about the 80K area, give or take 10K words. I gleaned this from reading various blog posts and opinion pieces on the great big Internet.

I like a novel that's a bit longer than that, 100-125K, or 325-400 printed pages, but that preference has evolved. Back in the day, I used to like long novels like those written by Stephen King and Tom Clancy. How many novels have those authors published that pushed or topped 1,000 pages? King, several. Clancy, maybe in the 700-900 page range.

CANALS came in at 200K words at first and was trimmed down to about 150K, or about 425 pages (I think). THE MIGHTY T weighs in at a little over 100K and about 325 pages. DEATH OF A MATADOR was in between: about 125K words and in the upper 300s pages. (If I was writing this at home I could look on the shelf at the page counts, but I'm not. I'm in my office-away-from-home: the local Starbucks.)

I'm currently reading UNDER THE DOME by King, and I'm generally loving it. But I think it's too long. I have the ePub version I'm reading on Marvin for iPad, and Marvin tells me DOME had 336K words. If King was a young author trying to get a publisher interested in his manuscript, and he sent in a 336K manuscript, it would've been sent directly to the recycle pile. No passing GO, no collecting $200. By contrast, SILKEN PREY by John Sandford, which I recently read, weighs in at 109K, according to Marvin. DOME is three time longer than SILKEN PREY, and it feels it.

DOME is a great story with delicious characters. I'm 70% into the book now and find I'm reading faster, because I want to see how things turn out. I want the main bad guy to get what's coming to him, and I want him to suffer. I'm anxious to see how the "good guys" take the Dome down (see, I'm capitalizing Dome, too). I understand the main good guy, or supporting good guys, might die in coming pages, and I'm okay with that. But I'll be disappointed if Rennie doesn't get it in the end. King wrote him very well: a delectable bad guy.

Written in Writer in my iPad.