As 50,000 Loses its Luster …

Every novel accomplishment should be celebrated. That is why 50,000 still has meaning to me. I’ve told the story many times about writing my first novel and scratching and clawing my was to 50,000 words, feeling like I had accomplished the impossible task. I am a concise writer after all. It was a lot of words for me.

50,000 is the standard number that the industry calls a full-length novel. Nowadays, it’s nearly a non-issue for me except for the fact that every novel should be celebrated. Earlier this week, I broke through the 50,000 word barrier (now sitting at about 57k) for my seventh time.

It’s funny how a writer progresses. The count, in the past, became an obsession of mine, and probably still is seeing that I’m writing about it. But I’ve learned that it’s all, 100% about the story you want to tell, regardless of its length. This just so happens to coincide with my ability to write more complex and involving stories which easily produces a work well beyond the 50,000 word range. The book I’m writing now is a continuation of my 6th (yet to be released) novel, and I intend to expand it to be a trilogy which will top out over 200,000 words. That is a prospect I never thought I would be able to do: write a story beyond 200k. Are you crazy?

I guess I am.

Conquering the 50k milestone was a theoretical hurdle I had to become comfortable with if I wanted to be a novelist. That mission is accomplished. Now I’m tasked to write quality stories that engage readers and make them think. This is, of course, still a work in progress, and the struggle to write quality books will never end. One must always be willing to spend more time, revise two more times, and push the limits of one’s satisfaction and patience in order to produce the best book possible. From now on, this is my goal.

I just hit 50,000 words for the fifth time. That deserves a post.

For me, a writer who likes to be concise, hitting 50,000 words is always a feat, but I’m noticing that it’s not nearly as big a deal as it used to be.

Fifty-thousand is, of course, the usual plateau where a work officially is granted the title of novel – though I’m not sure who these shadowy people are who decide these things.

When I was attempting my first novel, I was worried sick that it would languish in the realm of novella forever. Fifty-thousand seemed like too many words to me. I thought that maybe I should become a short story writer instead. But I pushed and pushed until the day arrived – 50,000 – and to my utter amazement, the story hadn’t finished yet. I cruised to 61,000 and celebrated!

I had similar fears with my second novel, but my third, fourth, and now, fifth novels seem to write themselves, so I guess I have grown as a writer.

Why? I don’t really know. Although I do take notice when I pass the novel thresh-hold, it is no longer the goal – the story is the goal. The story itself will dictate how long it ends up being. My third novel is still my longest novel, finishing at about 80,000 words – still a far cry from some of those super thick novels you see on the racks in airport bookstores.

The one I’m currently writing may actually take me to new heights, but it does depend on how stingy I become with words as it progresses into the final third of the book. I’ve been accused by readers of being stingy with words. I heard comments about how some readers wanted me to develop certain story lines deeper, but I always remain skeptical of doing so. I like my works to be described as a “fast read”, “read in one sitting”, “leaving you wanting more” kind of read. Much better than “slow and plodding.”

Anyways, writing is a blast. I’m so glad I’ve had enough time these past three and a half years to write five novels. I hope I can keep up the pace.

Writing Session: Follow Your Story No Matter How Long or Short

It felt good to get in a solid writing session on my fourth novel this afternoon. I probably tallied 2000 words as the story heads for its conclusion. It’s now upwards of 43,000 words and will comfortably cruise into the novel territory before I write its final words.

But I have discovered that I’m now at a crucial point in my story where I have to decide how long it will ultimately be. I’m a concise writer. I know it, and so do my readers. I’ve had many reviewers say that I write fast-paced stories which are lean on long-expounding passages which really go no where. I suppose I write stories in which I love to read. I cannot stand unnecessary words. Henry James anyone? I could not tolerate his style. I was always a Hemingway guy. Short, to the point, but extremely meaningful. I would rather have someone say that they were wanting more than saying that they skipped 60 pages and didn’t miss a smidgen of the plot. That’s just me. Others will disagree with this.

So I am wondering how far down a new rabbit hole I want to go with my new story. I’m guessing not too far. I like to stay focused on the prize – focused on the slim plot which highlights what I want to say. I read a book review the other day where the reviewer said that this particular book had a couple different subplots which didn’t really play into the main story. That, in my book, is a big mistake. I love subplots, but you can be sure they will always be tightly connected with the larger picture I am painting.

This is a strange post, and I realize it. But it has convinced me of one thing: keep my eyes focused on the end. Do not add unnecessary subplots or words to your stories. Do not go on unnecessary tangents. Keep focused on the story, and if it is complex, it will be longer. If it is a simple creative expression, it will be shorter. But just don’t add words to pump up the word count.

Bloated word counts serve only one purpose: they make readers turn the pages quicker looking for something of substance. I don’t want that to happen to my writing.

Therefore, I’m going to keep the focus narrow and finish my fourth novel. Thanks for listening and helping me decide what to do.