How long should my novel be so that it’s not considered a short novel? This is a question that many authors ask. And the answer is relatively simple: your book should be as long as it takes you to tell your story. It is, however, worth noting that the publishing industry has some rather strict standards when it comes to novel length. In general, anything over 40,000 words is considered a novel, although the word count varies depending on the genre. According to The Write Practice, the ideal word count for literary genres is as follows: general fiction and mystery (80,000), science fiction (110,000) and young adult (60,000).
What to Do When Your Novel is Too Short to be a Full-Length Book
It isn’t uncommon for authors to under-write. In fact, not only is under-writing common but it is one of those problems that has been known to destroy the publishing dreams of many authors. Sometimes, you simply do not have enough story to write a full length novel. Even if a manuscript has everything it needs (a solid plot, good writing, good subplots, a complete and solid story), if the word count is not where it needs to be, it may not be considered a full-length novel. If you’ve written a short novel and are currently experiencing a word count dilemma, ChatEbooks lists down some things you may want to consider.
Don’t Force It
When you realize that your book is simply too short to be published as a full-length novel, you need to first and foremost determine whether your work is actually complete. Sometimes you are unable to meet the necessary word count because there is simply no more story to tell. If your work is truly complete and your tale has reached its definitive end, consider simply publishing it as a novella. Do not force your short novel to expand into a full-length book. You will only diminish the quality of your work. If your work is indeed complete, leave it alone.
Avoid padding your short novel
A lot of writers that fall short of the required word count have been known to increase the length of their work by adding unnecessary fluff. Writing pointless chunks of description, unnecessarily exploring characters’ thoughts and including irrelevant tangents will only weaken your work. Extra words do not add any value to a story and including them will probably do more harm then good.
If you’ve written a short novel, you can always expand it. Do not confuse padding for expansion. To expand a short novel into a full-length book means to add elements that actually strengthen your story. This means shedding a bit more light on components you have previously only hinted at; or adding tension to some scenes that were somewhat shallow. Expansion will add value to your reader’s experience while padding simply takes up space. The easiest places to look for potential additions include the beginning, ending and climax of your story. You may even consider adding a subplot.
Change the Pacing
The easiest way to make your short novel longer without padding or even adding new elements to it via expansion is to change the pacing. Read through your draft and find places where you rushed to the build-up and simply fill in the missing pieces. Take all those big moments you summarized and explore them further.
Slow the progress of your protagonist by throwing obstacles in his/her way. The key to effective delaying is to do it without making it seem like you are actually delaying. This means avoiding obstacles that do not serve any actual purpose. From turning a previous victory into a defeat for purposes of exploring the character of your protagonists to branching out into side plots, find methods of delaying your characters along their journey that actually build on your themes. There are several ways to essentially slow your readers’ experience even while making it very entertaining.
Do not force your short novel to become a full-length novel. Some stories are simply short and should be published as novellas. It will not serve your interests to water your story down by expanding it unnecessarily. As long as you’ve told your story in its entirety, complete with all the literary bells and whistles, your readers will love your work regardless of its length.