Saturday, 13 July 2013

L K Jay: The Listening Post

This week's #SampleSunday guest post is from L K Jay, author of a number of titles including the well recieved Ghost Hunters' Cluib series. You can follow her on twitter here, or find her books here.
The Ideal Length by L K Jay

What’s your preference?  Personally I like mine not too long, but not too short either.  Somewhere in the middle will do.  Different types have ideal lengths that appeal to different needs.  What is the blog post about?  How long a book should last of course, what did you think I was talking about!

Obvious statement coming up: books can vary in length.  I’ve got a tiny cute four book mini-collection of children’s books I’ve kept from when I was a kid called Pooh’s Pot of Honey, which are probably about a thousand words long each.  Ideal for a small child to learn to read with but rubbish if you are sitting on a long haul flight and you need seriously entertaining.  Genre can dictate length as well, and this is the crux of my post, what is the ideal length for a particular genre?

This is also where self-publishing ebooks can give you much more freedom that traditional publishing.  The story can last as long as it needs to be, and not be unnecessarily padded out for the publishers’ sakes.  Until the popularity of the Kindle, published short stories were in serious decline, which is a shame as they are an art-form in their own right.  Imagine the world of literature without the short ghost stories of M.R. James, Charles Dickens, Maupassant and Le Fanu.  Some seriously good films have been made that have come from short stories: ‘Don’t Look Now’ and ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ are two famous examples that come to mind.

Personally, and as a real fan of ghost stories, I think that they should be on the short side – novella length is ideal.  Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black is a good example of this.  Too short and you don’t get sufficient build up and engagement with the characters, too long and you’re no longer intrigued by the ghost.  Too much ghost means it becomes normal and then you miss the point of the ghost story; that they are not natural or normal.  One example of this not working was Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger – a ghost story that lasted 500 pages.  I got bored of the ghost; I wanted to put the book down and say, ‘c’mon then, haunt me if you think you’re scary enough!’  And then there is the most famous of ghost stories, The Christmas Carol which is the mercifully shortest of Dickens’s novels.

That is why I have made my ghost story, The Listening Post, a novella.  That is how long the story lasted, at 26,000 words was its ideal length.  A pure ghost story, in my opinion, without any sub-plot, should be novella length, or you’ll dilute its effect.  I’m currently writing another novel, with a ghost in it, but it also has sub-plots I want to explore, so a novel is a good length.  But it’ll last as long as I want it too.

So now we have the medium, ebooks, we can publish stories at their ideal length and not bow to industry expectations.  If you want to write a thousand page fantasy saga, then you can.  If you want to write a short, sharp novella, then you can do that too.  There’s room on our Kindles for all!

Blurb for The Listening Post:

A woman finds the diary of her recently deceased grandfather and reads the chilling story of his time spent in a lighthouse during World War Two.

Sergeant Walter Brooke is an expert radio operator in the Second World War and he is sent to the Norfolk coast to a disused lighthouse in order to pick up covert communications from agents in occupied Europe. He thinks he is alone but there is something else there with him and when he turns on his radio, he hears more than just Morse code.


  1. Isn't this just the best thing about ebooks & being indie? When the story's told, the story's told - no padding to please publishers!

    Julia x

  2. Thanks for having me on here today, much appreciated! :-)