The Long and the Short of It

When I first looked into the possibility of self-publishing, I was astonished at how prolific many indie novelists were, bringing out six or seven books a year. Then I figured it. Their books are short, as in 25 or 30 thousand words. What I would call a novella.

Book-length fashions go up and down like skirt hemlines. My early novels ran to about 60,000 words. Then, like my waistline, they expanded. When I wrote the first draft of Dr Dan’s Casebook it was 75k long and my agent, preparing to offer it around the Big Publishing Houses (pause briefly for sardonic laughter), advised me to get the length up to north of 80k. Which I did, trying always to be mindful of Elmore Leonard’s Tenth Commandment for Writers: thou shalt not perpetrate hooptedoodle.

Hooptedoodle is a technical term for padding a book with descriptions of trees, weather or the personal ruminations of a minor character no-one cares about. How I miss Elmore Leonard.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I’m rattling out the next Dr Dan book and although it looks like reaching 85,000 words, I now realise that its length is entirely up to me. I no longer know nor care whether long books or short books are ‘in’. Neither do I test weigh my novels for diversity, inclusivity or currently acceptable language. I’m just a story-teller. If my readers would like my books to be longer or shorter, I expect they’ll tell me. If they want them faster, tough. I have flapjacks to bake.



  1. Louisa Merlin on November 24, 2019 at 12:52 pm

    Long or short doesn’t matter, just write it soon, as I’m looking forward to finding out what Dr Dan, his colleagues and patients get up to next.
    I’ve read all your books and have looked forward to them each time a new one swims into my ken.
    They are are on my “books to read again” shelf. Not an overly large category.
    Thank you

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