Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Allison Montcliar on Words, Words, Words

DEBORAH CROMBIE: One of my favorite new mystery series (as in immediately pre-order in print as soon as I see there's a new book coming!) in the last few years has been the Sparks and Bainbridge books by Allison Montclair




I love the fascinating post-WWII London setting, and I love Iris Sparks and Gwendolyn Bainbridge's complicated lives and relationships, but most of all I love the witty banter between the two protagonists. I'm happy to say that the 5th Sparks and Bainbridge, THE LADY FROM BURMA, is every bit as delightful as the previous books.

Of course those of us in on the secret know that Allison is actually Alan Gordon, who's joining us today to talk about something we've never really explored on the blog--


Words, Words, Words

 

by Allison Montclair,

AKA Alan Gordon

 

            When I first began to write mystery novels, it never occurred to me that the word count mattered. I went in more or less following the sage advice of the King of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland: “Begin at the beginning … and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

            My first published book [writing under my actual name] came in around 73,000+ words. To my happy surprise, sequels were wanted. However, buried several paragraphs into my brand, spanking new contracts, were minimum word counts of 80,000.

            I had no idea this was a thing, and having already engaged in pre-sequel panic (Can I do this again? What if it’s worse than the first book? Do I have to give the money back?), this became one more set of worries. What if I fall short? What if I end up padding the writing to stagger across the finish line? I found myself channelling Lucy Van Pelt from the great “Book Report” song in “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”: “And they were very, very, very, very, very, very happy to be home.”

            Fortunately, I was able to make the adjustment, and as the series continued, 80K became a thing of ease. I even surpassed 100k words on one book, and not a single one was padding. I still consider that one my best published work.

            Eighty thousand words took on a particular feel for me. It had a rhythm to it. As the word count from each finished chapter was added to the total, I had a sense of where I was in the storyline, and where I needed to go. I am not a detailed outliner, tending to chapter outlines with a few sentences for each, so the 80K rhythm becme essential.

            Then I started the Sparks and Bainbridge series — and the new contracts came in with an 85,000 word minimum!

            What? Wait, when did this become a thing? I mean, I had been delivering books that length in the old series, but only because I wanted to. Now, I had to.

            Grumbling ensued on the part of the author.

            But that was the gig, so I let it flow, tried not to worry about it, and hit my mark on the first book, as well as every one since then.

            It does feel different. Not longer, necessarily, but a different rhythm than the first series. Adjustments were made. And it led to one interesting writing adventure. When I was working on the fourth book, An Unkept Woman, I was about halfway through the first draft when I checked on the word count and realized that I wasn’t going to reach the minimum. Not by a long shot. I thought about it for a while, and came up with another plot line to fold into what I already had, involving a potential threat from another source. I went back to the beginning and rewrote, setting it up.

            The end result not only passed the 85k mark, but the book itself became my personal favorite of the series. And it was the required minimum that spurred that creativity on.

            Mystery novels, by and large, are not epic tomes. They have for me a rough three act structure: Crime, Investigation, Solution, and shouldn’t run too long if one is to maintain the tension. There are, of course, exceptions. Iain Pears’s An Instance of the Fingerpost clocked in at a massive 691 pages in hardcover. It also blew me away, with its tale told by four, count ‘em! four different unreliable narrators. By comparison, my longest work, the aforementioned 100,000+ one, came at 304 pages in hardcover. Agatha Christie’s longest mystery under her own name is Sparkling Cyanide, which comes in at 288 pages in the paperback. (Her longest book Giant’s Bread, was under her Mary Westmacott pseudonym. I haven’t read it, but it doesn’t sound like a mystery.)

            I don’t know how other writers have to deal with this (Jungle Red folks, please chime in!). But as a good writer should, I have saved the final twist for the end. Sparks and Bainbridge #7 will be published by a different company. And for the first time in my career, I have a word count —- MAXIMUM!

            Conceptually, this has an entirely different feel. What if I rush the ending? If I fall in love with a plot line that needs more time to unfold? What if I have to cut something I really, really like?

            Lucy Van Pelt, I invoke your spirit. Tell me that the Book Doctor is in to give me advice!

            I have your five cents fee ready.

 

          Allison Montclair is the pseudonym of Alan Gordon. As Allison, she writes the Sparks and Bainbridge mysteries, beginning with THE RIGHT SORT OF MAN (The ALA Reading List Council’s Best Mystery of 2019). Set in 1946 London, the books detail the adventures and struggles of two women trying to run a licensed marriage bureau. The fifth book, THE LADY FROM BURMA, was released this past July.

            As Alan, he has written the Fools’ Guild mysteries, beginning with THIRTEENTH NIGHT, featuring a 13th century pair of married jesters; WHERE WEREWOLVES FEAR TO TREAD, a darn fine werewolf novel; numerous short stories in different genres; and is also a librettist/lyricist for several musicals which have either been performed or workshopped around the country. He has won the Kleban Prize, received honorable mentions for The Best American Mystery Stories and The Best American Science Fiction Stories, and has been on “The Moth Radio Hour” telling the truth, among other accomplishments.

            He has subsidized all of this as a public defender in NYC for nearly 39 years.

 



THE LADY FROM BURMA

 

               London, 1946. Gwendolyn Bainbridge: Aristocrat, war widow, co-proprietor of The Right Sort Marriage Bureau — and a ward of the Crown ever since her husband’s death drove her into an asylum. Now, the long-awaited and long-dreaded date for her petition before the Court of Lunacy has been set. The last thing she needs is another murder investigation falling into her lap, but that is precisely what she gets when the Lady From Burma comes to their office, seeking a new wife for her husband, then turns up dead a few days later in Epping Forest. Along with her partner, Iris Sparks, Gwen is dragged into a case she never wanted, and more will die before it’s over and done with.

DEBS: My first book came in around 70,000 words, if I remember correctly. I had no idea there was such a thing as word count! The next few were a little longer, then the books got a LOT longer. A KILLING OF INNOCENTS was 96,000 words after I cut 100 pages from the manuscript, and it's not the longest book I've written.

REDs, do you try to work to a word target?

READERS, do you have a preferred length of book? Is this something you think about when choosing a book to read?

And readers, stop in with more questions for Alan, who will be stopping in to visit!


79 comments:

  1. Congratulations Allison/Alan on your newest book . . . it does sound as if Gwen and Iris have gotten themselves quite a case . . . .

    Word count is a bit of a mystery to me . . . isn’t the telling of the tale more important than how many words you use to tell the story?

    I don’t have a preferred book length and I’ve never checked the page numbers to see how long the book is when I'm choosing something to read. Just give me a good book to read and I’m a happy camper . . . .

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  2. I definitely consider length, and yes, I look at page count. But I also keep in mind page size and font size. Not all 300 page novels are created equally, after all.

    I can only read so fast, so a 600 page novel would take the place of two 300 page novels. (I'm an accountant, there's always math.) When I have commitments for review, I have to factor in whether I can get this longer book read and get my ARCs read on time. Some day, I will figure out how to read everything I want to read without needing to worry about time. But I'm not there yet.

    Alan/Allison, congrats on your new book. I've got the first one on my TBR stack for September.

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    1. Very true. The later books by the great Robert S Parker were short, but printed on thick paper, with huge margins, type size, and line spacing, so they looked substantial.

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  3. Congratulations Alan on your recent release.

    If I see a book that has 400+ pages, I hesitate, unless I know there are short chapters which goes faster than one thinks.

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    1. Chapter length is a whole other topic, and one that is a matter of feel for me for the particular story. I've experimented with different average lengths in different books. A.

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  4. Congratulations on such a successful and varied career, Alan. Your bio caught my attention with The Moth - I adore that show and hope to make it on there one day. And you've done all your writing along with a day job? My hat is off to you.

    I'm not sure how your books escaped my notice, but I plan to remedy that. The Sparks and Bainbridge series sounds fabulous.

    My books tend to about 70k words. The longest I've written is about 92k. What is the maximum you are working under now? Like Dru, I don't tend to pick up really long books. I'm a fast reader, but fat books daunt me and I think, do they really need all those words?

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    1. Edith, I am not daunted by long or fat books as long as the language is neither long or fat. And in the “left handed compliment” column…I always finish your books wanting “more”. But, please don’t ask me “more what?” Murder at a Cape Bookstore has been starring at me since 8 pm delivery last night. Elisabeth

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    2. I hope you love the story, Elisabeth!

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    3. Thanks, Edith! It's 80k, although they're flexible about me going over, as long as it isn't too much over. A.

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  5. During my teaching days I didn’t really have time to read huge books. About 300 pages was my limit. Once I retired, I could indulge in longer books. Especially historical novels. But I still like a mystery to be around 250-300 pages. Still, if the book jacket summary or a blurb or the novel’s theme hooks me, length doesn’t matter.

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  6. I don't mind reading books with lots of pages. I prefer it over small books which usually leave me wanting more.

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  7. Perhaps this is why so many books today are bloated. It never occurred to me that publishers require word counts.
    As an extremely fast reader, length never deters me. But I find today that many of the longer books I read, especially those from well-known authors suffer from what I thought was a lack of editing. (Looking at you Robert Galbraith.) The characters are terrific, the overall story engaging, but waaaay too many additional characters and scenes that detract. Now I wonder if word count demands is what’s driving this. Hmmmm..

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    1. I love the Galbraith books but certainly think they could do with some judicious editing!!

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  8. I'm also a fast reader but the mysteries that I read are usually 250-400 pages. I used to read some series that were over 700 pages long but not any more. Maybe I'm showing my age but those larger books are heavy to hold!

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    1. I know what you mean, Grace! I sometimes will request a Large Print book from the library, only because I can get it sooner than a regular print book if it is a highly popular one. But you right that they are heavy! I have found that placing them on my Flippity, which I use for my Kindle, is a big help.

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  9. Welcome Allison/Alan! I think my books weigh in around 70-75k, and I don't think the publisher would want more--more pages to pay for! The one I'm finishing now feels short--I'm going to have to figure out what else needs to be said without padding! We will be interested to hear about the new publisher late in the series...I also would love to hear more about being a librettist. You have so many talents!

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  10. I wouldn't say I have a preferred length when it comes to reading a book. BUT...whether a book is short or long, the story has to be interesting. I read a 700-page thriller and I loved it. But then I've read books that didn't even hit the 300-page mark that weren't great so the length seemed too long.

    Back when I read fantasy novels as a teen, I loved The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. However, I stopped reading the series with Book 7 because I got 300 pages in and nothing had happened! That's just unforgivable for me.

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    1. Jay: I agree with you -- if nothing has happened after 300 pages, ditch the book.

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    2. Thanks, Lucy/Roberta! You can hear some of my musical theater work on my website, which is linked to the Alan Gordon name above the article.

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  11. I like a long book to get stuck into and am on my second 600+ page historical novel this summer. But the length must match the story -- that is, every word should be needed by the author to tell it. At the opposite end of long books lie micro-length stories where the word count is what it's all about. I enjoy working within the constraint; for example: http://fiftywordstories.com/2023/08/23/amanda-le-rougetel-gushing-not-required/

    Allison/Alan: You are a new-to-me author and, like Edith, I'm off to find your books for my TBR pile. Question -- How often are readers surprised to find that Allison is actually Alan? Or maybe vice versa, depending on which order they read your series.

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    1. Most were very surprised, my favorite being Robin Agnew who's known me since I started, and said upon learning it, "I had no idea this was written by a dude!"

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    2. Amanda, the female characters are so central to these books, and so well drawn, that I was truly shocked when I found out Allison was Alan! But I doubt anyone who starts reading them will care one way or the other!

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  12. I find that many of my books are way under or over publisher's word expectation and the process of fixing that problem (most of mine are non-fiction, so it can literally be a new issue addressed or an included one considered unnecessary) actually has led to my best revisions. It doesn't feel like criticism of my work (by me, author, or a beta reader) so I don't grumble but settle down and do it.

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    1. Agreed. Constraints can be stimulating. A.

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  13. Congratulations on your latest release!

    Most of the books I read are 300-400 pages, long enough for a plot and several subplots, but not a 600 page door stopper that takes its main characters and their ten points of view around the world and then into space.
    I wrote my debut to 90,000 words and a savvy editor slashed it to 85,000. It's a model that works for me, particularly when I limit the cast of characters and subplots and rev up the deep POV.

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  14. Alan/Allison, I had no idea until I saw your Poisoned Pen interview with Barbara. Your series is divine and I hope JRW blog commenters will flock to it after today. I have been reading it since book #1 and it is fantastic! You could not have created two more engaging, interesting and dynamic protagonists. The timeframe is unique, just after the end of WWII in London, and the banter of these two women is quick and sharp, like watching a forties movie! Their enterprise is so smartly conceived and such a brilliant setting for mysteries that I couldn't wait to begin the series as soon as I heard about it. I think it was on one of JRW's "What We're Reading" days. Debs...it could have been you! Whoever...thank you. Alan, I have your new book already and put it on the top of my TBR pile.

    Now, about words. If a story is interesting and well-told, it is the right length. When I was a young adult, I read tomes, Herman Wouk, Leon Uris, Mitchner, Tolstoy...you get it. I will still pick up a long book if it interests me, some stories take longer to tell. Mysteries usually aren't that lengthy and I have slid into that genre quite nicely over the last few years. I am not a fast reader but I read a lot, audio, paper and e-books.

    Congratulations on your new book! I am also interested in knowing if your day job has given you ideas for your writing and also about your switch of publishers at this point in the series.

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    1. Thanks, Judy. I write in part to escape from the day job, but having legal research skills proved useful both for learning about the Court of Lunacy [actual name!] in the UK and finding some of the procedural aspects that I was able to bring into play. The scene where Gwen first meets her barrister in THE UNKEPT WOMAN is one of my favorites. As for the switch in publishers -- straight economics.

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    2. Alan, I meant to ask about your Day Job as a Public Defender. Are you like Rumpole of the Old Bailey or more like the American Perry Mason?

      Diana

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    3. Neither, alas. But here's where my lives overlapped: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oxRrjQB1JOI&t=43s

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  15. My contracts all say a maximum of 85,000 words. I set that as a target in Scrivener. But my publisher is lenient, so I generally come in anywhere from 87,000-90,000 words. I do like a target count because it let's me roughly judge where I should be in the manuscript. For example, "I'm at about the 25% mark, I should be moving into Act II." It's not hard and fast, but it helps.

    As a reader, anything over 500 pages better be epic fantasy OR superbly written. LOL

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    1. Liz, when I am reading your Homefront books, I don't want them to end; I know there is a lot more story for the characters, who have become such favorites of mine!

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  16. As a reader I have no idea how word counts translate to number of pages. In any case I don't choose a book based on the number of pages. I'm more concerned with how each page looks. If the page has very little white space, but large paragraphs full of tiny print, that is very off-putting to me. I like a good story to be told in the number of words (pages) it takes, no more, no less. Readers can tell when there is padding and we don't like it!

    Since your series is a new to me one, I can't wait to start at the beginning. Definitely looking forward to it!

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  17. I've loved the Bainbridge/Sparks series! Thanks to JRW for having Allison/Alan on again. I like big books and I cannot lie--the historical novels by Sharon K. Penman come to mind, a couple of books by Mark Helprin, and more. Years ago I read War and Peace and Ulysses. There's something very satisfying about going through a big novel, knowing it will end, but enjoying every one of the 800 or 900 pages, and a deep sense of accomplishment when I finish.

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    1. Gillian: You express my experience very well here -- "There's something very satisfying about going through a big novel, knowing it will end, but enjoying every one of the 800 or 900 pages, and a deep sense of accomplishment when I finish." Thanks!

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    2. I agree, too, Amanda and Gillian. But I have to be in the right mood. There are times when a short book is just the ticket.

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    3. I've read all those, but working a full time day job and writing a book a year unfortunately cuts into my reading time. The two longest books I've read are Les Miserables and A Suitable Boy. A.

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    4. Oh yea! Les Mis. I've read it twice. Another very satisfying read. I don't know how you do it, Alan. You must have a ton of energy.

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  18. This topic makes me wonder about how many books that I have read wherein the beginning was good, the ending was good, but the middle – feels more like a pile of fluff. Was that the result of needing to pad the book for word count or just bad decisions on the story by the author (and the editor).
    Then there is the chapter length issue. Some books have only 10 chapters but they are 30 pages long versus those with 30 chapters all of shorter length. I suppose if I was awake enough to look, I would see that both books have approximately the same number of pages, but I am reading in bed and don’t have Mark’s accountant brain. Personally, I prefer the shorter chapter style as this means I don’t ‘quit’ the chapter before the end, because I was currently too tired and falling asleep. It should also mean that the author has to be a little tighter with their story as I figure a chapter should be a mini-plot (beginning, middle, end) and not just a random set of stops to give the reader a break.
    I also feel that book length is usually a sign of the type of book it is. Cozy’s are of a shorter, but comfortable length, then the (I forget whet they are called after Julia so kindly told me) books written by authors like Debs, Julia, Louise Penny, Elizabeth George are a still manageable longer tome, and then there are the ones that you need to take a vacation to read like Ken Follett – still meritable, so oh so long and needing a very capable writer.
    I have been to the library to search these titles and they are now in the line-up.

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  19. This is so interesting! I'm afraid my readers will feel let down if my books aren't close to 350 pages (latest was 348) but some of that of course is down to the book design. And that's something else we haven't discussed. It makes so much difference to the experience and pleasure of reading a book if it is well designed.

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  20. PS from yesterday--I've posted a message from Ann at the end of yesterday's comments. She never did manage to get into Blogger!

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  21. Speaking of long, I'm listening to Ron Chernow's biography of Alexander Hamilton, the book that inspired Lin Manuel Miranda to write the musical (he picked up the book for something to read on vacation.) I don't know what the page count is but the listening time is about 33 hours!

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    1. Debs, last week, at the suggestion of JRW guest Stephanie Willing, I listened to STRANGE THE DREAMER and the sequel THE MUSE OF NIGHTMARES for a total of 35 hours. I couldn't put it aside. I never considered listening to a book like Chernow's bio of Hamilton. Is it easy to listen to?

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    2. Judy, it is. It's read by Scott Brick, and it's a fascinating story.

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    3. Scott Brick is a great narrator. You and I know how much difference a great narrator can make. That is also why the fantasy novels I mention above are so amazing. Their narrator, Steve West is among the best ever!

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    4. I will check them out! Thanks, Judy.

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  22. There are authors I enjoy, and I don’t care what the book length is. In fact I’m usually sad when the book is over. That being said, I find it difficult to keep reading a book that has obvious fillers. When an author repeats the same things several times over or describes the same characters, the exact, same way in every book, I find myself skipping ahead, which I hate to do. I realize it’s hard not to use the same descriptors on characters in ongoing series. Sometimes, if a book is too difficult to get into, but I like it, I will try to listen to it on audio.

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  23. I have to stick in a little brag here. A Killing of Innocents (Der Unschuldigen Blut) published today in Germany and is #181 in Books on Amazon!

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    1. Yep - that would be German for you! Gl├╝ckwunsch, Debs.

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    2. Debs, The beauty of the German language is you could turn in a book with only 75,000 words and it would still have a 450 page count :-D

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    3. That's great news, Debs! Congratulations!

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    4. Like German, French translations tend to require about 30% more words...

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  24. Congratulations, Alan. I am delighted to have another Bainbridge/Sparks mystery to read. Woo hoo! As for word count, I've always considered them more of a suggestion than a rule and I am consistently 10K under or over depending upon the genre. Luckily my publisher has come to accept this.

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  25. Congratulations on releasing THE LADY FROM BURMA, Alan/ Allison! I had never heard of word counts when I was working on my first novel, which came in, after editing, at 107,000 words.

    That's been my shortest book today.

    I just write long, probably because I frequently have multiple POV characters and am always writing a romance plot to go along with my mystery plot - and my readers and I take the former just as seriously as the latter! The only time my editor wanted me to shorten just a little was when the book, as written and typeset, would require an extra "book" (the minimum set of 36 pages that gets bound into a hardcover) just to get my last two pages in. As you would imagine, that would add a noticeable expense to the print run, so I gladly went back and cut out two pages worth of material. Which I suppose indicates I could shorten all my books if I really worked at it...

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  26. I'm always delighted when another Sparks and Bainbridge novel comes out. I learned about the series relatively early on, but that was only because Debs read them first and more or less camped out on my doorstep, insisting that I read them. Of course she was right. They're so much fun! Which reminds me, Debs, how did you first encounter them?

    Back in my days as a freelance journalist, I got paid by the column inch, and before that I wrote 30-second radio ad copy. As Alan says, each form has its own rhythm. To this day, nearly 40 years later, I can still write a 30-second script and know exactly when it's too long or too short. When I'm writing the Deep Ellum novelettes I just tell the story and don't worry about length, but when I'm working on a novel I aim for somewhere between 80,000 and 100,00 words. (Yes, there are novels. Someday you may get the chance to read them.)

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  27. Alan, congratulations! This series somehow dropped off my radar, but now that I'm reminded, I'll be looking for book #1 today. I love it when I find a series and there are already several books for me to read. As for word count, as a reader, I pay no attention to word count/number of pages when I'm looking for something to read. I dislike bloated writing where famous author gives you the backstory on every conceivable minor character and you have to skim through to find what's happening with the main characters. Conversely, there are books where you feel the author could have given you more than the bare bones of the story.

    When I write, I tend to write sparely--probably a result of my professional/academic background: the Joe Friday school of writing--"Just the facts, ma'am." As a result, I tend to add in when I revise--where does the story need more? Bridge scenes to get from A to B, deeper dives into place, character, emotion, etc. Can't wait to check out this series!

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  28. I have somehow missed the Sparks & Bainbridge books until now, but I plan to rectify that soon!

    I care some about book length. For example, the next Robert Galbraith book for me and Amor Towles' LINCOLN HIGHWAY are both on my TBR list and I look forward to them in spite of their length, because I know the authors already. But I won't pick either of them up until some time that feels right for settling in for a l-o-n-g reading spell.

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  29. Alan, congratulations on the new book! And so interesting how different we all are.

    I do hate being given a word count... My stories usually take about 75K words to be told. And I can always cut, but rarely does writing MORE make it any better (and often worse). My contracts usually say 80K and I ask my agent to try to negotiate down a bit.

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  30. Welcome to JRW, Alan/Alison! Congratulations on A LADY FROM BURMA.

    Discovered your Sparks and Bainbridge mystery at my local bookseller when I saw the title A ROYAL AFFAIR.

    Loved the premise, especially the Deafness clue. True that a Deaf person cannot Hear words unless they are lipreading, which is really a Rarity despite the common thoughts that Deaf people can read lips. The character developments and the red herrings kept my attention.

    The title UNKEPT WOMAN has different meanings. At first I thought it meant someone who never bathes. However, I learned while reading the book that the title meant something else.

    As a reader, most of the time, I prefer 250 pages to 300 pages. There are many books that I want to read and so little time. However, there are exceptions. I read 700 ? pages of a Harry Potter book. And there are a few novels where I could get into the story even if it was more than 300 pages.

    As a new writer writing my first historical cozy, I try to write 2,000 words a day. Right now it is a challenge and I think it takes practice, right?

    Diana

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  31. Congratulations on your book! As a reader, I don't mind a longer book. It really depends on the story. I am reading And Ladies of the Club (Helen Hoover Santmyer) right now and it's 1,433 pages. I am giving myself until Christmas to finish it since I read about 3 other books a week. Sometimes a longer book is preferred if I love the characters.

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    1. I hadn't thought about And Ladies of the Club for years. I read it in paperback in the 80's(?). It was quite daunting at 1,433 pages and as a slow reader, but it kept my attention and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I grew up in northern Ohio and remembered a lot of Ohio history. I still have the book, but the print is SO small, I doubt I could tackle it again. Charlene

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  32. So glad to have another Sparks and Bainbridge book to read. As a reader, I just want each word to hold my attention.

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  33. Is there a logic behind the publisher setting a minimum or maximum word limit? Is this a reflection on readers or economics? I'm strictly for the plot and the characters, not the number of pages, when I pick up a book. Alan, I've read all your Sparks and Bainbridge books to date and love them. Two very different women who go together like peas and carrots, to quote Forrest Gump. Iris has expanded Gwen's world so positively while Gwen has supported Iris in her search for inner peace. Now, is either one going to end up with that sweet tall drink of water?

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    1. Pat, I think a lot of it has to do with cost. But also maybe readers' expectations of a genre.

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  34. Good to see you like Iain Pears's work. He's an interesting example of a writer who can write a magnificent long work like An Instance of the Fingerpost, and then turn around and write and write a short, very tight book like The Portrait (which seemed like an ambitious failure, but I respect it). I guess having a critical and popular hit like Fingerpost lets you get away with writing at whatever length pleases you. The early Jonathan Argyll books are also delightful.

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  35. I write long (100,000 plus words) and pare down in revision. How do I know if something will be important until the first draft is done? I don't, So I just chuck everything in, knowing it can always be removed. My outtakes file for each book is huge.

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  36. Sounds like you have a plan and a Peanuts mentor, Alan! I grew up with academic writing and standard paper, and it was page count that mattered. I wonder if "word count" came in with the word processor. Anyway, I swing from fearing I'll have too few words to too many, and end up at 88,000.

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    1. That's a good point, Priscilla. I have a rough average of 225 words per page. I tend to look at page counts to get an idea of chapter lengths, but otherwise, it's irrelevant in the word processing age. A.

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    2. Priscilla, I started out using page count as well, but have gradually made the mental conversion to word count. Six of one, half dozen of the other!

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