Wednesday 19 October 2011

The Man Booker Prize 2011

Julian Barnes wins the 2011 Man Booker Prize with a novella! Yippee!

That's all I really want to say. I write novellas, and therefore I'm expecting a huge surge for shorter fiction. (Actually, I don't write novellas - I write novels, but they seem to be complete at around novella length, if that distinction makes sense.)

Except there probably won't be a huge influx of shorter fiction. Julian Barnes probably got this novel published because he's a successful writer and his editor was indulging him. Not many publishers entertain the idea of novellas, or indeed short story collections, from unpublished writers, and I wonder how many wonderful writers are being missed with this policy.

The cut-off for novel-length seems to be different depending on the genre and the individual publisher. 70,000 here, 85,000 there - which makes it, once more, difficult for the writer: I don't think any new author writes for a particular publisher, it's a rather limiting approach should that publisher say thanks, but no thanks.

To refuse to even consider a novella submission seems odd to me: "We really love this story, Ms Writer, but you need at least 30,000 more waffle and padding to be of interest to us."

Why? How would 30,000 words of staring out of windows, brushing teeth, considering the minutae of a tedious train journey enhance the story? Answer: it probably wouldn't. But a nice thick book would stand out on the book shop shelves, and they could sell it for £2.99 more than a shorter book.

I could easily add 30,000 words to my 44,000 word WIP, but it would compromise the style and the impact of the story.

All I can hope is that this is the start of something new within the publishing industry. Fingers crossed!


  1. This will help, but I think the 'something' has already started, in e-books at least; and hopefully,when publishers see that they're working, they'll realise that people want them. We can but hope, anyway :-)

  2. I forget about e-books. I don't have an e-reader/Kindle/other brand name, so it's not my automatic thought. You're right, though, that there's much more scope with e-publishing.

  3. Here, here! I just finished Solar by Ian McEwan which isn't a very long book anyway but I felt at times it was padded out. The characters and story were clever and amusing, but there was SO MUCH PHYSICS in it - more than the average layperson finds interesting I'm sure (or maybe it was just me?)and it went on for paragraphs and in some cases, pages. It wasn't essential to the plot - and finding it boring, I skimmed most of it!

  4. I admit, I'm guilty of skimming if I'm bored by either very technical writing, or very descriptive - you're stood in a field, I get it, I've done it myself! As a writer I hate the thought that my words would be skimmed, and try hard not to let that happen.

    I've heard that criticism of Solar from someone else - I'm not that tempted to read it.

  5. Yeah, I've heard shorter fiction is doing well in e-formats. Which is wonderful because that's what I also do

  6. The length shouldn't matter. It should be about the story but the publishers have so much say in what we're allowed to read. I love reading short stories and I spent several years writing them too but the only outlet was women's magazines. There's nothing wrong with magazines. It's just that the content is too proscribed.

  7. Jenny - e-books are probably better shorter: can you imagine reading War and Peace length books on a Kindle? (I can't imagine it at all because I've never used one - but you might :-))

    Rosalind - I write short stories too, and my only outlet is competitions because I can't get my head around all the online markets (of which there are loads, but not a lot paying). But I'm not sure whether I'd have publishers turning me down but publishing lots of other great stuff OR this Amazon monopoly that seems to be taking place.

  8. Yes, the short story/novella is popular in ebooks... agree with Sarah ;-)

    BTW I've left an award for you over on my blog. You're so good at visiting me, I wanted to give you something back :D

    Teresa x

  9. I couple of my blogger buddies have written excellent novellas. Shame they aren't more popular.

  10. Teresa - thank you so much for the reward. I'll be over to check it out later, time is getting away from me now.

    Alex - I've read some great ones too. Size shouldn't matter if the story works.


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