[LMB] Thought for the day

Lois Bujold lbujold at myinfmail.com
Tue Jan 23 16:29:29 GMT 2018

[LMB] Thought for the day
Kevin Kennedy kevink45 at hotmail.com
Mon Jan 22 17:36:30 GMT 2018

KK:  My NESFA Press copy of Ethan of Athos is 199 pgs of text, the 
Subterranean Press copy of Penric's Mission is 250 pgs of text. What's 
the word count on these two, that the shorter one is a novel, the longer 
is a novella. Or did the definition change in the last thirty years, 
since novels have been running longer in recent years?

LMB:  "Penric's Mission" is just under 45,000 words, _Ethan_, as I 
recall was a bit under 80,000 words.

So no, you can't go by page count, which is very adjustable with 
typeface, type size, space between lines, margins and gutters, and 
whether the next chapter starts on the immediate facing page or always 
on the right (as one holds the book open) sometimes leaving a blank page 
at chapter-end.  Typesetters -- now there's and obsolete word, let's say 
book designers -- try not to leave too many blank pages unfilled at the 
end in the printing page-bundle units that have a name I don't remember 

"Novella" is a term with a number of definitions depending on context.  
In the context of F&SF, the two major award systems, the Hugos and the 
Nebulas, define them by a strict mechanical word count to save argument 
about categories.  Novellas used to be defined as a story between 17,500 
and 40,000 words, but with the portion inflation of novels, acquired an 
extension to 45k words, with talk, last I heard, of raising that to 48k.

My minimum contractual word-count for a novel used to be 80,000 words, 
back in the 80s, and had been raised to 100k by the turn of the millennium.

Ta, L.

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