There are few things more obsessed over by writers than word count: required word count, in-progress word count, goal word count per day/week/month, words that were cut, words in the final version.
So I love Daniel Torday’s essay in the newest Glimmer Train bulletin, “The Secret Lives of Novellas.” It begins like this:
The Great Gatsby received some truly awful reviews when it was published. HL Menken called it “no more than a glorified anecdote” and felt its characters were “not quite alive.” Edmund Wilson said much the same. Fitzgerald spent a good deal of time writing letters apologizing for having written an incomplete book, and the main source of his contrition was this: he felt the book was too short to be accepted as truly great. Years after its publication he wrote to legendary Random House editor Bennett Cerf that the book “was a light little volume barely touching 50,000 words,” and as a result “it was a rank commercial failure.”
Torday goes on to discuss an Amazon feature called Text Stats, which—if you haven’t heard of it before—may well distract you for the rest of the day.