A Mistake I Almost Made

I had a problem. I needed to wrap up the Novella I was writing this week—and I had only five hundred more words at my disposal.

I knew I couldn’t include much dialog or description. I had to keep to the basics and weave everything into a satisfying ending for my readers. 

An hour later, I felt pretty smug at having pulled it off with a four hundred ninety-nine word count.

Until I read it back to myself.

And there it was. I noticed it right away.

The big “T.”

Telling.

Even though everything I wanted to say was included, it wasn’t nearly as exciting as it could have been. I felt like a newscaster, not an author.

Show—Don’t Tell is a beautiful thing. The reader can see, touch, hear, and see a story. 

As good as a movie. Often better.

A rewrite was in order and I found a creative way to use my five hundred words and “show” readers a great ending.

My “almost mistake” taught me a valuable lesson, so I’m simply passing it on to you.

Add or Chop?

What to do if your manuscript word count is too low:

  1. Consider making it book one in a series.
  2. Publish it as a novella.
  3. Reread your manuscript. Are there places you can add a scene? A chapter? 
  4. Could you write a prologue? An Epilogue?

What to do if your manuscript word count is too high:

  1. Reread your manuscript. Look for ways to use more concise vocabulary in order to say what you intend, but with less words.
  2. Eliminate repetition. Especially in cases where you are revealing your character’s inner thoughts.
  3. Split your book in two, making the second half another book in your “new” series.
  4. Remove some of your content (especially in non-fiction or self-help books) and use the “extra” content in a blog, short story, etc.

The Averages

At one time or another, we have talked about word count for short stories, novellas, novels, non-fiction, etc. However, if you missed one of those blogs, here they are for you. All in one place

These are averages because almost every article I read on this subject reported different word counts. Each publisher or contest will furnish writers with guidelines, including minimum and maximum word counts.

Fiction

Novel: 55,000-300,000

Novella: 30,000-50,000 (Average: 17,500)

Novelette:  7,700-17,500

Short Story:  Less than 7,500 (The “perfect” S.S.= 6,000)

Flash Fiction: Works under 1,500

  Non-Fiction

Biography:  80,000-110,000

Memoir: 60,000-90,000

Business & Money:  40,000-80,000

History:  60,000-100,000

Self-Help & “How-to”:  20,000-70,000

What I Learned Today

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A couple of days ago, we had new countertops installed in our kitchen. As I stood there afterward, admiring them, I said something to the installer about my having heard that Windex is a good cleaner.

“Oh, no!” he said. “Please never put Windex on your granite.”

“Oops,” I answered. “I learn something new every day.”

And I do.

I either learn through the circumstances of my day—just as from the installer—or by purposefully seeking the answer to a question I’ve had.

One of my friends is writing a Novella. I asked her exactly what that was (I was already considering writing one myself the instant that she said the name. So beautiful it sounded to my ear: No-vel-la.)

She said it was a short novel.

Ok. I knew there had to be more to it than that., but I was too embarrassed to tell her I didn’t know.

So, I went to the computer with my question. Here is what I found:

A novella is a work of fiction. It can be thought of as a short novel or a long short story.

Whereas a novel has over 50,000 words, a novella has an average of 30,000 words.

A writer may plan to write a novella ahead of time, as my friend has. It’s alright if the novella ends up to be longer (then you’ve written a novel) or shorter (then it qualifies as a short story).

Novellas are not the most popular or best-selling format. You may not find a publisher that will readily accept a novella, but it may be perfect for someone self-publishing.

So, there you go. Perhaps we’ve all learned something new, today.

Whatever you decide to write—a short story, novella, novel, or magazine article—writing is a most-rewarding form of self-expression.

So, don’t miss the opportunity to try your hand at writing.

Why not start small?

Perhaps a novella…