Of course, I’ve been aware for a long time that it takes different skills to write short stories than it does to write novels. If you work in stories of different length, you also find that writing a piece of flash fiction takes different skills than writing a fully developed short story. The issue with SFF short stories is how to do your world-building quickly, how to round out your characters in just a few words, how to present a plot and a theme and wind it up within the word limit of the magazine or anthology. If you move on to novelettes and novellas, then the requirements are loosened a bit. You have longer to develop your plot and theme and for readers to get to know the characters. You get to add subplots and subthemes.

When you move up to novel length, then you have even more opportunity for this, but you have to be more aware of pacing. There tends to be a slump in the middle of a novel-length work, for example, where you’ve introduced the characters and everything bogs down before action starts rising to the climax. Looking at the novels I’ve reviewed for the Nebulas/Hugos, I’m noticing there are different requirements for writing a short novel versus a long one. The issues of idea, plotting and pacing are definitely showing up here.

So what is the longest novel on record? According to Wikipedia, it’s not Moby-Dick (as many a weary high school lit student must think). It turns out to be Les Hommes de bonne volonté (Men of Goodwill) by Jules Romains, published in Paris by Calmann Lévy in 27 volumes, 1932-46. It comes in at a whopping 2,070,000 words. That’s about 8,280 pages.