When I first got in this long-story-writing business, I had to look up the definition of novel to see how many words it took to create a novel. Well, the general consensus I found was 50,000, so as I was writing my first novel, I obsessed over that number thinking how it would be impossible to reach it. I am, after all, a succinct writer. I like pithiness. I can’t stand rambling on about this or that for 20 pages at a time aka Henry James or whomever you like. I like stories to move. I like plot. I like action. But I also like depth.
So I slugged it out and eventually ended up at 61,000 words. Many of my readers said “fast paced,” “easy read,” “a little rushed.” I didn’t mind any of those descriptions. They are, after all, much better than slow and plodding in my opinion. My second novel weighed in at about the same length, then my third “ballooned” to an unprecedented 80,000.
It was at that point when a reader whom I trust said something to me. “Remember. Readers like to read.”
It was quite revolutionary for me as a pithy writer. So readers don’t mind words? What? Who knew? I thought they were like me and couldn’t wait to get to the ending.
With that in mind I wrote my next novel, a whopping 61,000 words. Hey, it’s still important only to tell the story you have, right? Don’t make it long if it makes it worse.
So now, as I’m revising novel #5, I found myself today looking at the number 97,000. Seriously, a Sasse novel approaching 100,000 words. I’ll probably get there, too. I never thought I’d see the day.
The question that must be answered is this: is this new novel a better novel at 100,000 words than it would be at 60,000?
Yes. Most definitely.
Is it better at 97,000 than it was after the last revision which ended in the 80,000s?
Would it be better at 120,000 than at 97?
I think I found the sweet spot. I’ve realized that it’s okay for writers to produce a lot of words. I wonder if in some bizarre universe that a writer could make a living from them.
A novel thought.