I was thinking back to when I started writing at the ripe old age of fourteen. Back to when words flowed from my cranium like teeth from a drunkard's mouth. Every thing I wrote down was agonizingly painful. By the time I finished whatever tome upon which I'd been working, I was exhausted. And I could only hope my work was long enough to qualify as a novel.
Often, it wasn't.
So, what do you do if you complete your Great American What's-It and find it's only 39,000 words long? Is that long enough to qualify? Before sitting back on your laurels, think about a story my agent once told me about a fledgling writer who once submitted a 45,000-word manuscript to a conventional publisher. The editor sent it back with the note, "This isn't a novel; it's a pamphlet."
Ouch! Painful. Especially since a little bit of inquiring would have prevented that.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, the question becomes, What am I going to do about it? You can't submit your work to a conventional publisher as a novel, and few publishers these days publish novellas, a label that's more in keeping with your work's length. I'm guessing you had your heart set on becoming a published "novelist," anyway, which is difficult to pull off without a novel under your belt.
True, you can publish it yourself and label it anything you want, but you won't be fooling anyone, and you certainly won't be setting yourself up as a successful novelist. So, my guess is that you wouldn't mind expanding the book to sixty or seventy thousand words or more so you can submit it for conventional publication. Am I right?
My next guess is that you don't have a clue as to how to go about doing that since you already poured everything you have into your story—beginning, middle, and end—and don't have much left in the tank. Right again? Read More