Sometimes you just gotta get away.
Away from the routine.
Away from the ruckus.
Away from the never-ending news reel of life…
But what to do when you can’t hop a plane and leave your habitat? What to do when you can’t even hop in the car and drive around the block for a mental respite (or a mental breakdown, whatever may be your priority…)
Take a story break.
The world of indie publishing (self publishing) has opened up quite the travel agency, if you ask me. Short stories and novellas existed in traditional forms, but now, with the touch of a finger and an e-reader you can escape—if only for a moment. Authors in control of their own stories means they don’t have to write only what big publishing houses are willing to print.
They can write anything.
In any length.
In any genre.
And send it into the world for us to find and enjoy.
And some of the “Big Name” writers are catching the wave, too. Free at last, free at last…
So, Little Miss Muse and I have curated a mini travel guide. All you need to know is what you’re in the mood for and how long you’ve got.
Wait. That last bit… that sounds like a prognosis instead of a time management issue—how long you’ve got.
How about: All you need to know is what you’re in the mood for and how much time you have to spend.
There. That’s better.
(Full disclosure: I need this information in a place I can find it quickly. I always learned more in school doing research than anything else. But it seems I’m forever looking up these word counts and nothing sticks. Perhaps “curating” them for the blog will allow me to retain the information and save yet another internet rabbit hole chase. I fell down three doing this blog and bumped into Alice and the Queen of Hearts on my way back out.)
So the first issue: How fast do you read?
Not techy or work-related words. Fun words… Words that make you feel something other than the urge to quit your day job or go ahead and hire the fridge repairman because the manual that came with your new computerized appliance is written in Greek and Ancient Alien 2.1.
Personally, I don’t read every single word in a book I’m trying to enjoy. I start reading slowly, getting the feel for the main character and the setting. Who’s who and where’s where kind of thing. Then, if the author has grabbed my curiosity, we’re off. I skip words, skim paragraphs. I can get through a standard-length novel written by a master in about three to four hours (Grisham, Koontz, James) if I’m not ill or brain-twaddled from the day job.
However, give me an anthology of short stories, and it will take me much longer because the characters, plot, genre, and setting can change with every “chapter.” My reading speed tanks on short stories.
The “feel” of the book affects my speed, as well. I tend to speed through thrillers faster than Jack Reacher shops at a thrift store for his next outfit. But with a book like “Where the Crawdads Sing,” I found myself slowing down to enjoy the setting and the mood.
Give me a straight-up romance, and I’m asleep by chapter five. So. Many nights to get through one of those.
Generally speaking, according to the “experts,” adults read between 200-250 words per minute. Your mileage may vary depending on if you’re a voracious reader or if you like to meander through the tulips chapter by chapter.
If you’re morbidly curious, Google “reading speed test.” Lots of calculators out there.
I was morbidly curious, so I tried this one: http://www.freereadingtest.com/
My speed was 391 with 100% comprehension. But it wasn’t romance… it was science. If they had offered me a romance snippet, I’d have been at 10 words per minute with squinting and pauses for forehead-slapping. (See, internet rabbit holes will get you cool information, but not so great for forwarding progress on the work-in-progress.) I also read A LOT for my day job, so I don’t have the luxury of reading slowly.
Little Miss Muse racked up 1519 words per minute with 50% comprehension. And then she clickety-clacked off to do other things. Numbers bore her quickly with all their logicy-logic.
So… here’s the rundown on story lengths, whether you need to escape to the bathroom because your in-laws showed up or you’re ready to hunker down for a couple of afternoons.
Novel: Lengths tend to vary based on the genre. Extensive world-building needs more pages, whereas sweet romance set in a modern-day coffee shop, not so much. Gone With the Wind clocks in at over 400,000, Dune at 188K, Lord of the Rings (all of them together) about 580K, and Harry Potter patters along through this series at over a million meager words (who says kids can’t dig in and hang on for a “big book” experience?). The average novel length is 50-70K.
Novella: 10,000 to 40,000 words.
Novellette: (Yes, it’s a thing): 8,000 to 17,000 words.
Short Story: Over 1000 words (about the average size of one of my blogs, give or take Little Miss Muse’s interruptions and what the cats may be destroying in the next room, cutting things short). An average short story of mine is about 5k, but they can go up to 10,000.
Flash Fiction: Likes eggs in a frying pan—don’t leave the stove, it’s not gonna take that long to finish. Like seconds to minutes. Like the in-laws don’t even have time to pound on the bathroom door to ask if you need medical attention. In 500 words (and quite often less than that), you give your brain cells a mighty minute or two to focus on something else.
And now Little Miss Muse is tap, tap, tapping her lavender stilettos with the cheetah print. It’s time to refill her grape soda on the rocks and get back to the fiction word count…
… before someone starts pounding on the door and asking if I need medical attention.
FYI: This blog is 1032 words before this sentence…
And I guarantee you it took me much longer to write it than it did for you to read it. 😊