I am referring to books here, not alluding to a question one might ask oneself when browsing a sex toy website.
A lot has been written about size, and we authors can get into a bit of a quandary when it comes to what an acceptable length might be when submitting for publication. If I took on board everything that’s been written about it, I would become paranoid and would probably never write again. I personally consider size to be the amount of pages, and length, the word-count.
Most fiction, I am told, ranges between 75 – 120,000 words in length. A novel of 180,000 words, amounts to 650 pages, and for this epic size I would expect the storyline to be great. I am also told that detective stories should be longer than women’s fiction. Why that should be the case, I do not know, but Amazon state the median length of their novels are 64,000 words.
The longest Novel I have come across is Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy (594,000 words) beating Tolstoy’s War and Peace by about 7,000 words. Margaret Mitchell’s epic story Gone With The Wind (frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn – sorry I just couldn’t resist that) was approximately 418,000 words in length, whereas George Elliot’s Middlemarch weighed-in at approximately 316,000 words.
There are not many hefty tomes written these days, but there are many at the lower end of the length chart, so to speak. For example, William Golding’s Lord Of The Flies, approximately 60,000 words. The Colour Purple, by Alice Walker was only about 66,000 words in length. Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, approximately 64,000 words. Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mocking Bird, approximately 99,000 and Steinbeck’s, The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden approximately 170-225,000 words respectively. JKR’s Harry Potter series ranges between 77 – 257,000 words.
It has been said that a good short literary novel could be only 60,000 words in length with the proviso it is very good. But a really short novel of perhaps 45-50,000 words needs to be really, really, good. Christopher Isherwood’s work comes to mind here. So, this takes me back to my original question, “Does size and length really matter, and is it important to the quality of the novel?” I really don’t think it is, so I will carry on letting the length of my novels look after themselves, because I do not wish to implant any unnecessary prose prosthetics into my work. My motto with everything, has always been, “Less is more”.