Hi gang, Craig with you again. Today, I’m fighting with myself over some things I hold true in writing. I look at writing as a personal journey of improvement, and I can see that improvement from book to book. Here are the two mantras that seem to have found a way to be in conflict with each other. Then I’ll explain the conflict.
1.) A story should be as long as it needs to be.
2.) Never give them a reason to say, no.
Here’s the situation as it relates to word counts. I just finished a draft the morning of this writing that comes to 111,500 words. This is a fantasy book, and part of a series (Lanternfish), so the word count isn’t completely unacceptable. It might be a train wreck as a cozy mystery or something.
I have another series that’s dark humor with a target of around 45,000 words per volume (The Hat). I may wind up 10,000 words short this time. I like this series to be afternoon reads to appeal to a certain market.
Just so you can understand how I got here, I was asked to contribute to an anthology this year. the target is between 10K and 15K words. My short story came in at 9600. Not horrible, but it’s below parameters, too.
Under personal rule #1, they are as long as they need to be. That isn’t my problem. Will I run into a conflict under rule #2?
I don’t know if I have an answer, but here is my thought process. Maybe you can offer some theories in the comments.
Most of All of the rules regarding length were made up by the big publishing companies. By their standards, The Hat series of short novels would never see the light of day because of word count.
Some of these rules have to do with printing presses and the cost of running them. As a publisher of ebooks, I really don’t have those constraints.
The question of the day is: Am I giving people a reason to say no because of my word counts? Both of my current projects need to go through the editing phase and I usually lose some words there. That’s good for the Lanternfish series, but bad for The Hat series.
Trimming parts of a story to fit into some arbitrary framework is just as bad as adding fluff to fit into a different framework. The stories should be as long as they need to be.
Self publishers have the option of breaking rules and blazing new ground. I even put silly graphics into my Hat stories because they enhance the corniness of the tale. I’m going to keep doing it, too.
Being a self publisher is a double edged sword. I don’t have a someone telling me I can’t, but I don’t have anyone preventing me from doing something stupid either.
There is a certain amount of Darwinism at work in the publishing industry. Even the mega publishers are struggling right now, which kind of marks a new era. Evolution tries a lot of experiments. Most of them fall by the wayside, but species improve and evolve into new creations.
Maybe my books are some of those experiments, but my reviews have been pretty good. I’ll never be one of those premier authors, because I don’t seem to find enough readers, but those who take a chance seem pretty happy with my product.
I didn’t exactly poll the audience, but when I wrote about Lanternfish on my personal blog, commenters said they didn’t care about the length as long as it’s good. I can apply that to both series, and if The Hat has one short volume, or Lanternfish has a longer volume, maybe it doesn’t matter. That’s the way I think it should be, but I’m not in charge.
Maybe the answer is that if you buck Rule #1, you’re opening the door to a violation of Rule #2. I can live with that. What do you think?