Friday Write-Day: A Not-so-Short Novel


Writing this week has been terribly slow. Work has been a bit more stressful than usual, sapping my mental energy by the time I get home, not to mention the (inevitably) last-minute preparations I have had to make for the holiday this weekend.

The highlight, of course, is that I get a few days off of work next week and an extended break. So relaxing this weekend with family, then a bit of relaxation on my own next week, during which time I hope to add to my word count substantially.

Oh, right — my word count. It sits at 21,000. Part of my struggle this week has been in how much content to add.

In revising the first four chapters and necessarily laying stronger foundations for the themes and narrative threads present throughout the rest of my book, I decided to go back and add a longer, more complete introductory chapter for one of my protagonists.

This is a vital step, but it now has me questioning just how short my ostensibly short novel will end up being. When I first set out to really write this story in 2014, I anticipated a word count of 120,000. Then, it became 150,000. I ended up with a 178,000-word first draft, and now I’m projecting 180,000+ words for my second draft.

All of this still sounded like a short novel to me, until I formatted my word processor for book-sized pages: 8″ x 5.5″ with healthy margins and a page gutter. Suddenly, the first 20,000 words of my story have turned into 60+ pages, meaning my completed second draft could easily exceed 500 pages!

And my only question…

Who the hell wants to read a 500-page book from a heretofore unpublished author? Is this length going to be a detriment to my book? Should I even care about the length, as long as the story is finished? Ultimately, I’m not expecting huge sales numbers for my first book anyway, and I’m self-publishing the book for the very fact that I want complete control over the finished product. But 500 pages is daunting even to me.

What’s more frustrating is that I know the simple answer to these questions:

Write the book you want to write!

These are the troubles that haunt my mind’s waters when I’m not actually writing. The good news is that I want to write this story regardless, and that fantasy tends to run either extremely long and expansive or extremely short. I suppose my writing style tends to be more expansive anyway.

Do you think there’s an “ideal” length for a first novel? Is this question a moot point anyway because no one will buy my first novel?

Steve D

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