Write Short


Last week I suggested writing short stories as a way of reaffirming your love of writing, having fun, and maybe creating saleable content as a happy bonus…plus also teaching yourself to write fast, and write lots.

Over at Anne R. Allen’s blog, Anne has suggested in her post “The Attention Economy: Shorter“, that indie writers should be aiming for shorter in everything they write, including our commercial releases, and not just the fun stuff.  In other words, novels, too.

I heard rumblings from my readers several years ago about books being “too long”, which caught me by surprise, for until then I got reviews dinging me for stories being too short — even the 100K novels!  (I take these reviews as an indication that the novel was a fast read, which isn’t a bad thing).

I once aimed for my novels to come in around 80-100K.  These days, anything over 40K (the official lower end of novel lengths) is fine by me.  For one series, I tend to land neatly between 50K and 60K.  A complex ancient historical series I’m doing tends to come out at just under 80K per novel.  And only now as I am writing this post have I realized that I haven’t recently received an “it’s too short!” complaint from readers for these shorter novels.

The length suits my readers, which seems to support Anne Allen’s supposition.

How long your novels should be is often dictated by the genre you’re writing in.  Fantasy novels are always longer than anything else out there, but even they no longer need to be 250K tomes.  Do your research and test your readership with a shorter book or two.

If you can write shorter novels, you will benefit:

  1. You’ll be forced to write tighter and faster paced novels to get the story into the shorter length.
  2. Structure is somewhat simplified, (less sub-plotting and bloated storylines) so plotting goes more quickly, too.
  3. Therefore, you’ll produce more novels, faster.

Classic pulp writers of the 1930s and 1940s and on up into the mid 1950s always wrote lean, short novels, with single story arc plots, and tight writing, along with a break-neck pacing.   They entertained millions of readers, for decades.

As even the slowest of them were prolific writers, just to pay the bills, it’s worth taking note of their preferred novel lengths.


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