How Long Should Your Book Be?

I’m not much for maths. (That would make a great blog title though—please don’t steal it. My trademark and intellectual property lawyers are better than yours.) But I must admire the lack of debate about the basics. How long is a foot? How much does a pound weigh? And, yes, you could debate it further, but at the end of the day, one-hundred centimeters make a centometer. Or something. I’m not much for maths.

Try asking “How long is a novel?” Math folks: you are right to mock us.

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

Dear Writing All Wrong:

Dumb question, but how long should my book be?

—Nancy Mears, Cranston, R.I

You know how people always say, “There’s no such thing as a dumb question?” People say that.

Nancy, I don’t know. Depending on genre, audience, writing style, whether you want to publish, your book could and should be many lengths.

Let’s run a few tests and see if it’s “too long,” “too short,” or “just right.”

You wrote a 50,000-word magnum opus for NaNoWriMo: TOO SHORT

Your book contains Volume (any number here) in the title: TOO LONG 

You’re writing science fiction: TOO LONG

Backstory is essential to you: TOO LONG

You can read your book in one sitting: TOO SHORT

You can read your book in one sitting on the toilet: WAY TOO SHORT 

Makes for a great read on a cross-country road trip: TOO SHORT

Makes for a great read while driving that cross-country road trip: WAY TOO SHORT

Easy read during hard work: TOO SHORT

Hard read during easy work: TOO LONG

Can’t finish it during one of your numerous month-long vacations: TOO LONG

Would make Tolstoy look like a lightweight: TOO LONG

Would make Borges look like a heavyweight: TOO SHORT

A page-turner: TOO SHORT 

Your bookmark disintegrates before you finish: TOO LONG

Your book disintegrates before you finish: WAY TOO LONG

You read it to sleep: TOO LONG

You read it to wake up: WAIT, WHAT?

It’s something you skim during your skateboard routine: HUH?

Built a house with its pages: NOT UP TO CODE

Makes an emergency meal: YUMMY

Makes an great bonfire: PUT IT OUT AT NIGHT

Emergency floatation device: DON’T PANIC

Kills houseflies: LIFESPAN OF THIRTY DAYS

Kills house intruders: MAKE MY DAY

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com) and followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong).

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