How Many Words to Word My Way to a Novella?

How many novels would a novelist novel if a, err, doesn’t really work. Anyway, I mentioned in an earlier article that I belong to a lot of Facebook groups and hear a lot of the same questions over and over.

I often hear writers ask, “How long does it take to write a novel?” Or, “How long should a novel be?” My original article was intentionally snarky, but I felt like these questions deserved at least a serious attempt at an answer.

The second one is pretty easy to answer. If you plan on Indie Publishing, it doesn’t matter as much, but I would still make it at least 50,000 words long before I would call it a novel. 17,500–49,000 for a novella.

But if you plan on submitting it to literary agents or publishers then 70–80k is a safe bet in most cases. Always check the submission guidelines though before sending any query letters.

The quick answer to the first question is, “It varies from writer to writer.” Some can knock out a 100k word novel every three months, others might spend years to produce a 25k novella.

Math, oh no that dreaded thing with numbers that writers like myself fear and hate, can help break it down for you though.

Don’t worry though, someone far better at math than me already did it all for us and threw it up on the internet where it can be easily found verified with Google. The catch though is that the math is going to vary by individuals as well. Luckily I have one thoroughly tested guinea pig novelist I know very well, mainly me!

So when I write and things are really flowing well I can usually pump out around 1000 words an hour, a little more when I handwrite stuff. Googling the math tells me that at this pace if I can keep it up every day, can land me a 75kk word first draft in about 2.5 months.

The truth though is I usually can’t keep up this pace for 2.5 months. I write best in 20-minute chunks of time. I have learned 500 words a day is a good goal for me. I can knock out 500 words in one 15–20-minute sitting. If I feel
inspired I can do this several times a day at least. And I’m planning on putting this one to the test in a big way in about a month.

The problem here though is even though I can definitely pound out a novel-length manuscript in 5 months pretty easily at the 500 words/20 minutes a day pace more than likely I’m going to render a stinking heap of confusing gibberish that won’t be worth the years it would take to struggle through an edit to make it a readable first draft.

A tool that helps me with this is an outline. How to make an outline again varies from writer to writer. There are a lot of great articles you can find all about it though.

Personally, I like very simple and skeletal outlines that I build on as I go.Usually, they only include the opening scene of the first chapter, a few scenes for the middle chapters and a final scene as a place holder since it will most likely change by the time the first draft is finished. I also use a very loose timeline, short descriptions of the main characters, and various plot notes that I add as I go along. If I’m writing Sci Fi or Cyberpunk I will also keep a list of terminology I make up as well. I found this saves me a tremendous amount of time when it is time to edit and proofread my novel.

As a side note I should mention that I write fiction much faster than I write non-fiction for some reason. This 690 word or so article (so far) has taken me the better part of a day to write. A similar length flash fiction piece would probably only take me 20–40 minutes max to write. thought I would mention it just in case you decide to try and write some non-fiction and suddenly find the speed of your writing has changed dramatically.

So that’s a brief little description of my method for getting the stories out of my head and on to the page. Every writer will have their own unique methods in the end, but I hope some of what I do will be useful for those of you thinking about attempting a novel.

 

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My Books

stevebhow (35) in books •  21 hours ago

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Satori in the Slipstream

$0.99 ON AMAZON AND OTHER PLACES NOW! A Great Little Collection of Short Stories at a Great Price!!!!

Satori in the Slipstream is a collection of dark stories that will take you to those places where the brutal clarity of truth is sometimes revealed. Follow the tales of a young woman in Japan trying to find herself in a Buddhist temple, a junkie street artist trying to draw away his demons with is art, a Japanese soldier confronting the horrific destruction and death in Hiroshima, a young hustler on the streets saying goodbye to his dead friend, and an office lady in Japan contemplating suicide from her 18 story apartment. All these stories in more.

ebooks

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07HLWJ88L

https://www.books2read.com/u/mZP7ap

Paperback

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1731214944

https://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/1731214944

Something Gaijin This Way Comes

$0.99 ON AMAZON AND OTHER PLACES NOW! A Great Little Collection of Short Stories at a Great Price!!!!

FREE BOOK HERE NOW! A Great Little Collection of Short Stories!

Broken, blistered, and busted tales about life in Japan. Take a look into the darker seedier side, an old woman waits to die in the summer heat, a homeless man flees Japan rather do prison time, an old man argues with his wife and things go really bad. These stories and many more.

Ebook Pre-order

https://www.books2read.com/u/boZkRR

$0.99 ON AMAZON AND OTHER PLACES NOW! A Great Little Collection of Short Stories at a Great Price!!!!

Fly Fishing Out of a Dead End Life

FREE BOOK HERE NOW! A Great Little Collection of Short Stories!

A small collection of short stories, flash fiction, and haibun. A young man escapes from a rough life through his passion for fly fishing. A man reflects on how fly fishing, anger, and meditation have impacted his life. An old man tries to decide whether to try and reconnect with his son or chase his dream of catching a trophy salmon. A businessman who had little time for family bitterly reflects on his life while on a fishing trip. A man fly fishing in the high desert of Eastern Washington tries to capture in words the powerful spiritual beauty of the land and sport.

Ebook

https://www.books2read.com/u/3L02le

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07JMFW3LM

https://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/B07JMFW3LM

*Paperback (NOT FREE)

https://www.amazon.com/dp/172918443X

https://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/172918443X

In Transit

 

In Transit

 

You drowse in the rhythm of the

JR train’s click

over the tracks

opening your eyes briefly as

the train hushes

into another station.

 

This half-consciousness,

more like forced meditation

on an icy morning

than real sleep;

you draw out a long over

due yawn as

 

Koizume Station drifts past.

With eyes now open,

green and alien to

the dominating browns

you watch for your stop

through the window.

 

A row of half sleeping Japanese,

faces tight as concrete, are

reflected back at you

in the window.

 

You wonder why the softness of a

child’s nap always alludes

them on the sleepy

late afternoon trains.

RIP Pat Conroy

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I was very sad to hear Pat Conroy passed away over the weekend. He was one of my favorite authors. I don’t think it is a stretch to say he was one of the great Southern writers right up there with Faulkner, O’Connor, and Lee. This part of my collection. I have The Boo and The Water is Wide somewhere, but they seem to be buried somewhere in my bookshelf right now. I haven’t read “My Losing Season” yet, but I intend to soon.
 
For any writers out there looking for a model to help them learn how to write descriptions Pat Conroy’s novels are a fine teacher.

fiction writing short stories indie publishing