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QUESTION: Should a horror novel such as Misery or The Shining be a certain length of words (and pages) and if it goes beyond it, would this lose readers?


I have read comments from readers that some of Kings books should have been shorter.

ANSWER: Hello Demetrius:

So far as I know, no word length has been set for horror novels or any other kind. A novel should be as long as it needs to be: if 1,000,000 words is required, 1,000,000 words it must be. Only you can say how long your novel will be. A long novel will lose those readers who prefer shorter works, just as a short novel will lose readers who prefer longer works.

No doubt readers feel King's works should be shorter because he is in the habit of padding his works unnecessarily. That is my opinion only, and the reason I stopped reading him. His loyal fans, however, don't seem to mind. They are able to wallow in the "Kingness" of the works.

I hope this helps. If it does, a nice rating would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you for writing!

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

Your response was likely important to many writers.So I must ask, what writer or writers do you recommend as a good example of not padding his or her story?


No, it is not your opinion alone. I see many such comments that King's and other writers works are padded.

ANSWER: Hello again Demetrius:

"Literary minimalism is characterized by an economy with words and a focus on surface description. Minimalist authors eschew adverbs and prefer allowing context to dictate meaning. Readers are expected to take an active role in the creation of a story, to "choose sides" based on oblique hints and innuendo, rather than reacting to directions from the author. The characters in minimalist stories and novels tend to be unexceptional; they may be pool supply salespeople or second tier athletic coaches rather than famous detectives or the fabulously wealthy. Generally, the short stories are "slice of life" stories."

Among the well-known minimalist writers are Hemingway, Jim Thompson, James M. Cain, John Barth, Robert Coover, and William H. Gass. There are many others. Hemingway is about the best, IMO. Without being totally minimalist, a writer can certainly (and probably should), avoid over-padding such as King indulges in. One who is not a minimalist but who demonstrates how words can be added effectively is Cormac McCarthy, author of NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. I recommend all his work heartily, and the time when I don't recommend his work heartily is no time at all, a paraphrase that demonstrates how he uses repetition effectively.

I hope this helps and thanks again for writing!

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

Would you say that the very short Maltese Falcon is a  minimalist detective story while James Patterson's Alex Cross books are not?
Is Patterson's Along Came a Spider another example of over padding or does it work?
Your replies are important because there is an article online that says if your story is too short there are ways to lengthen it.
Is increasing word count necessary because publishers and agents today expect novels to be certain lengths and won't publish thrillers, horror stories or detective stories etc. as short as Maltese Falcon today? (but they may work as ebooks?)

Hello Demetrius:

Yes, I would say that.

I have not read Along Came a Spider but I would suspect that is true.

I am not up on what publishers require because I deal with writing only, not publishing, I suggest you find a good writing forum with writers who have been published and inquire there.

Thank you for writing!

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Susan Rand


I can answer questions about the elements of fiction and non-fiction writing: how to get started, writing techniques, re-writing, etc. I will NOT write for you, do critiques except from my website at, or give you ideas. I will not answer home-or-schoolwork questions in any category. If English is your second language, please say so, and I will make an exception. Please submit no more than one or two questions at once, as I tend to go into detail in my answers.


I wrote my first book in 1957 and have been writing and studying writing since. I have a BA in Written Communications, and have taught writing both privately and through adult education for 15 years. Have also edited (fiction books) for an online publisher and edited/wrote more than 100 articles for a teen sex education site. Currently writing web content and mentoring beginning writers.

BA degree in Written Communication

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