How Long Should A First Novel Be?
by Vincent Mars
I think that the shorter, the better. You will have fewer occasions to commit literary blunders.
It might be argued that lengthy novels like Moby Dick, Don Quixote, or War and Peace give us more time to make friends (or enemies) with their protagonists, and thus to remember them after we close the book. But think for a moment of the 112-page story of The Little Prince… He’s one of the most unforgettable characters in world literature.
The Little Prince is ostensibly a children’s book though. But there are other examples of short yet memorable novels: Kafka’s Metamorphosis, Camus’ Stranger, and Hesse’s Steppenwolf.
Oliver Colors’ biography now exceeds 112,000 words. That’s roughly 450 pages. It’s way too much for a first novel. Come to think of it, I intended it to be a novella…
I don’t have the heart to cut away 250-300 pages to make it a novella. But I have the good sense to cut at least 100-150 pages.
For as someone wiser than me once wrote,
‘Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.’
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
I think first novels should be as short as the writer’s ego permits.
Do you agree?