Wednesday, July 3, 2019

A Word …About Words

By Larry Gildersleeve

When I began writing fiction five years ago, I read that readers, agents and publishers all required 80,000 to 100,000 words for me to have any chance at success. 50,000 would be a minimum; anything less was somewhat disparagingly referred to as a novella. My first two novels are 65,000 each. My about-to-be-released third is 53,000, and I’m happily heading toward Novella Land. 

Since it ranked #1 on the NY Times bestseller list for over a year, and sold more than 50 million copies worldwide, I doubt the late singer/songwriter/author James Robert Waller agonized much over The Bridges of Madison County being a novella. 

Stephen King has published 58 books, including several under his nom de plume Richard Bachman, yet a reviewer of his 2018 novella Elevation derided it as “A mere slip of a book.” Really? That critic likely never authored a book and forgot or never read Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Of Mice and Men or Hemmingway’s The Old Man and the Sea.  

I understand James Patterson, arguably the world’s most prolific successful writer at work today, has said his future releases will be around 125 pages. His reason? The shrinking time people are willing to devote to reading, as well as the proliferation and popularity of reading on electronic devices like Nook and Kindle, even cell phones.

The best-selling book of all time is the Bible. In it, the account of creation in Genesis is told in only 400 words. The Ten Commandments needed just 179 words; the Lord’s Prayer a mere 66 words.

I believe country music songwriters, especially those in years gone by, are some of the world’s greatest poets and storytellers. Their few words capture a listener in seconds, and unfold an entire story of wonderous joy or painful heartbreak in less than three minutes. Oh, and the brief lyrics of Bob Dylan’s songs won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Literature.

Just sayin’.
Larry B. Gildersleeve is a father of two and grandfather of four who turned to writing after a four-decade career as a corporate executive. He lives in Kentucky and is the author of Dancing Alone Without Music and Follow Your Dreams. His third novel, entitled The Girl on the Bench, is scheduled for release in

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