The Beautiful Curse of the Short Novel

It is two days until November when many writers face the challenge of writing a novel in a month. I did it in 2010 and probably won’t do it again*. Never heard of NaNoWriMo? The concept is very simple: Write a novel in a month. The criteria 50,000 words, which seems a bit thin. Personally, I am more comfortable writing a 50,000 word novel than something longer, but in marketing terms it is too short to be a “real” novel.
This a touchy subject–like bringing up rocking chairs to your cat.
The ideal length for a novel is somewhere around 70-80,000 words. Have a novel you’re looking to publish? That is what is expected. I struggle with that–maybe you do, as well. I have a story I am working on right now that I want to make the second novel I release. I am on the second draft and the word count is 39,000 words. The plan is to add a lot of content with the goal of getting it to 50,000 words. It is going to take a lot of massaging and crafting to get those 11,000 words and, to be honest, it will still be short–maybe too short to sell.**
Which brings us back to NaNoWriMo.
Should they really be saying “a novel is 50,000 words?” What if there are writers out there who don’t know what the industry expects word count wise? What if they spend years creating this amazing, lovingly crafted novel and part of the process is making it 50,000 words so they can send it to a publisher?
Uh, sorry; beautiful writing but this is too short.
(Cue anguished writer jumping off bridge).

Does anyone else struggle with this? It seems like a lot of writers churn out 100,000 word drafts and then do a lot of cutting. I am the opposite and wonder how many of us are like that.
Man, if the industry was looking for 40-50,000 word novels I’d be golden.

Speaking of writing, you can get an advance copy of my debut book Golden Bullet here:

*To me, it seems like one of those things you do once–like Burningman. Don’t get me started on Burningman.

** That, and it is very different than Golden Bullet. That is another blog entirely: “When your second book is nothing like you’re first.”


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