55 pages; 13,000 words.
Why would I turn such a short tale into a book?
The most common critique I’ve faced so far since publishing A SONG BEYOND WALLS is its unusual 55-page length. Some of my most frequent comments have included: “I wish there was more”; “Will there be a sequel?”; "It isn't fair!"
Thankfully, no one has been too upset by it (yet), because critiques have also shown satisfaction in those 55 pages. Sabrina Voerman, author of RED, wrote “This book left me wanting more, and yet completely satisfied. Something only a truly skilled writer can manage. …There is not a single word wasted in this short story”. And Britt Laux, author of THE FOREST WITCH wrote “I was amazed at how big of a story it told with so few words. Each one counted and had a huge impact.” The reviews go on and I have been amazed by them. They are more than I had hoped for!
But why did I publish so short a tale at all? Surely I could have written it longer and greater.
My first book ever completed is a 260,000 word beast-of-a fantasy epic - a feast of a meal with every flavor and texture imaginable. I put everything into that story. It is intricate, knotted with twists and turns and character arcs for everyone mentionable, but it is also overwritten; purple prose is certainly present, albeit necessary (as is typical with the fantasy genre.) (In A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE, don’t you want to know the details of Winterfell or how Jon found Ghost?). And while I find it difficult to reduce my word count without damaging the story, I still have been met with rejection from literary agents because of the length. The story is too big. (This, I refuse to concede to. I believe that, in most cases, the bigger the story is the better).
So I wrote a massive fantasy epic. Years later, along came an anthology submission for a ghost-story romance to be told within 13,000 words. I challenged myself to write it - and write it like an atomic bomb; a big story squeezed into a tiny package. I wanted my story to be an explosion of emotion and conflict when the pages of the anthology turned to it. I wanted to blow all other stories in the anthology out of the vicinity. But I ended up withdrawing my submission and publishing it myself, instead. I was so very proud of what I had accomplished.
I suppose I wanted to prove to myself that I am not just an overwriter. I can tell a powerful story no matter the word count.
Still, when I hold the paperback of A SONG BEYOND WALLS in my hands, I become self-conscious of the thin spine. It almost disappears when you slide it into a bookshelf among thicker ones. But when I open the cover and glance at the pages, I am reminded of what I had wanted to prove. I’m glad I did. I feel I am a better writer after challenging myself to write A SONG BEYOND WALLS so minimally.
Thank you all who have supported my short little story and have left reviews. Without them, I would not know the big effect of my tiny book.
The Book of Light (1893) by Odilon Redon