120,000 words & conventional wisdom

I was fooling around looking at the word count of my novel the other day and I stumbled across a number of amusing articles contending that 120,000 words is some kind of magic number that one was unwise to exceed, especially as a first or second novel writer.

My favorite quote so far is:

“Word count limits can seem like they stifle artistic flow, but they exist for a reason.”

Uh, not really.

This is 2020. There are front list books. There are back list books. There long and short list books. But, there is no┬áinherent relationship between word count and quality and I don’t care if the author is a newbie or Dostoyevsky.

The fact is that duration or word count might well be inextricably bound to the depth and complexity of the writer’s vision. If ebooks and contemporary printing technology has brought us anything┬áit should be freedom from arbitrary limits respective to word count and the like.

So, if some stodgy old editor tells you differently, feel free to ignore what they say.

Only the author (and his or her trusted editor) can say whether a book has too many words (or too few).

To say otherwise would be to go back to the 20th or 19th century.

Let’s not…

 

120,000 words & conventional wisdom

My novel is done, done, done.

My novel is done. No, you can’t go buy it yet.

I’m preparing it for submission to a handful of publishers and it turns out they don’t fancy looking at books that are already in the throes of a self-publishing campaign.

I’m quite certain that’s where my book will end up and that’s OK by me. I’m glad I wrote it. It took a lot longer than I had hoped but I learned so much about the kind of long-form writing thought that a novel requires that I now regard the span of time as something of a necessity. That’s another way of saying I’m a slow learner.

I had written a great deal over a very long period of time before I decided to write a novel. Now that I’ve done it, I want to do another and to do a better job of it. I can look back on my book and can see it clearly for its good and bad. Something about writing it broke away a kind of resistance that had set in to that kind of writing ambition. Suddenly, writing a book seemed like something I could do and do with meaningful results.

I think often of Steve Earle’s dark years in Amsterdam when he was addicted to heroin. When he had finally clawed his way back into the light, he had a creative boom of sorts, making records and writing books and plays with a speed and intensity he never showed before. He attributed the burst of work to his release from smack.

Even though I wrote for both pay and fun I avoided the idea of writing a book until I hit my 50s. Rather than being addicted to heroin I had instead succumbed to the belief that I didn’t have anything to offer; that I wasn’t that kind of writer. It turns out that I am…

So, I’m grateful that I simply had the idea to write my book. Obviously and as always, it is the idea that made everything possible.

Now I have another idea and it’s led me start writing my second next novel.

Here’s hoping it moves along faster than the first one.

 

My novel is done, done, done.