As someone who has fought the battle of the bulge since I was about 30, a half of a lifetime ago, I was always thrilled when I got on the scale and the number was lower than it was the day before. Apparently, this is something that has been going on in my writing as well.
My first novel, Searching for Pemberley, published in December 2009, weighed in at 129,000 words. My second novel, The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy, was a much slimmer 95,000. A Wife for Mr. Darcy (to be released in July, 2011) came in at 90,000 while Mr. Darcy’s Bite (to be released in October, 2011) at 88,000. Anne Elliot: A New Beginning is a very slender 72,000. Like most weight loss programs, I shed the most words early on—between my first and second books, and then the words came off more slowly. For a novel-length story, I have reached a plateau of about 90,000, and I am perfectly fine with that weight, I mean that many words.
But as I continue to write, I find that my favorite length/weight is the novella, that is, a story between 20,000 to 50,000 words. (That’s my definition of a novella.) My two latest contributions to the realm of fiction are For All the Wrong Reasons and Mr. Darcy’s Angel of Mercy. Both weighing in at about 28,000 words. I happen to love this length. Because I’m not one for overly descriptive passages, preferring to leave details of room décor and clothing, even physical attributes, to the imagination of my readers, I can write a fully realized story in the novella format.
Does this mean I will no longer be writing full-length novels? No. In fact, I’ve already finished two novels, and they are in queue to be self-published later this year, and I am working on a third. But I must admit that I like my new slender novella look. I find it very flattering.
Do you have a favorite length story? Are you someone who wants a big fat book that will last you for days (that was Lonesome Dove for me) or are you a quick reader who prefers to finish a story in one or two sittings (that’s how I like my mysteries)? I would love to hear from you.
Mary Simonsen is the author of several Pride and Prejudice and Jane Austen re-imaginings. She is also the author of two British police procedurals, A Killing in Kensington and Three's a Crowd.