Monday, May 16, 2011

Slimming Down - From Epic to Novella

This post appeared on Austen Authors on Saturday.

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 slim 72,000 words.  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 d├ęcor 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.


  1. Is Mr. Darcy's Angel of Mercy going to be available in paperback? I saw it on Amazon for the Kindle, but I don't read e-books.

  2. I don't really have an answer to your question. It really depends on every individual book. However, I will admit that I like to read a book for 4 to 5 days, so that a world stays with me longer, especially if I like it.

  3. Anna, Yes, there will be a paperback version of Mr. Darcy's Angel of Mercy. It is making its way through the Amazon system right now and should be up by the end of the week. Thanks for asking. Mary

    Irena, I find that few hefty books grab me these days. I'm happy with about 300 pages.

  4. Thanks for letting me know, Mary! I'll have to start hinting to my husband that there's a book I want, LOL.

    In answer to your question, I like a mix of both. Sometimes I want to read something short and sweet, other days, I like spending more time with a book.

  5. I love the longer stories. They both have their place but I just really need the extra words...smiles.