Wild West
Publishing, Writing

How country and western songs can help you write your novel

From time to time an author will email us and ask, ‘How long should my novel be?’ Usually, they feel that they haven’t written enough and want to know how many more words they should add. But word count isn’t what you should be aiming for.

The most important thing about your novel is that it tells a story. And you can tell a really effective story in as little as six words. Here’s a really sad one:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn [1]

Pretty effective, huh?

But let’s go a little longer – you’d probably like more than one page in your book, right? Here are some country and western songs which are really effective at setting a scene, creating a mood, depicting characters and telling a story:

High Noon in Kilville by Angry Johnny and the Killbillies

This song has drama, violence and romance all rolled into one, played out with clearly defined, believable characters. The story is told, all done and dusted, in about six and half minutes:


The Guitar by Guy Clark

If this song doesn’t give you goosebumps, you’ve got no soul. Aside from the incredible guitar work by the late Guy Clark, the lyrics reveal a clean, linear story which has a wonderfully punchy ending. There’s also a spooky ‘feel’ to this one – rather than the violence and romance of High Noon, this one is almost a ghost story and it takes just shy of four minutes to tell.


Sad Song Teddy Bear by Red Sovine

If you want to really move your readers, this is the song to help illustrate how to do that. Again, believable characters, a great narrator, and a wonderful, uplifting ending – all in five minutes.


As you can see (or hear), each song told its story in a very short space of time, yet the longest took 50% more time than the shortest to tell. So each song, each story, was only as long as it needed to be.

So how does that equate to your novel? Well, it should probably be a little longer than a six-minute read. 😀  But don’t go writing words for the sake of it.

Does it have to be a novel?

If your story comes in around the 30-40,000 word mark, you can call it a novella and market it accordingly. And as a novella, you can charge less for the ebook, which will encourage more people to buy it. If it’s a hit, you can increase your ebook price $1 and see what happens. If it’s still a hit, increase by a $1 again. But remember, it’s better to sell 100 ebooks at $1 each than 10 ebooks at $10 each – more readers = more (hopefully positive) reviews = more sales. And then they’ll be queuing up to buy your next publication!

Genre plays a part

Length will also depend on genre. For instance, fantasy novels are generally expected to be longer than, say, young adult or humour. A fantasy novel could be expected to have more drama and a more convoluted plot-line, thus requiring more words to tell all the inter-woven stories of the characters and their various (and sometimes nefarious!) worlds. Compare that with a romance which wouldn’t have as many characters or such detailed worlds, and so wouldn’t usually require as many words. So if you’re writing a romance, you don’t need to be aiming at 100,000 words – not unless your story spans generations, say. But a fantasy reader would likely expect something up around the 100,000 word mark.

I know it’s an old, sexist saying, but in writing, the main thing isn’t length, but quality. To ensure your quality and an appropriate length, here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  1. What main genre are you writing in? E.g. young adult, humour, romance, adventure, fantasy? Research books in your genre for a guide as to the usual length – but don’t feel bound to it if you need to write more or your story is punchier with less.
  2. Does your story have a beginning, a middle and an end? Even if the book starts with a passage from later in the story, or the timeline jumps around, the story itself still needs to start somewhere, finish somewhere and help the reader travel from one plot point to the next. If you can’t see the trajectory of your story, your plotline, then you might need to write some more, and/or possibly cut some, to make it clear.
  3. Does your story have characters with individual and family/genetic personality or physical traits? They can be likable, unlikeable, honourable, weak, courageous, cowardly – pick a character trait – or more! But they must be people the reader can have some sort of feeling about, form some sort of opinion about, a connection with or a dislike for, and you’ll need at least a couple of characters in there that the reader will care about enough to find out what’s gong to happen to them. If your characters are all a bit bland, you might need to give them a bit of, well, character!
  4. Do your characters have to face challenges or intrigue as they go through the story? They may not beat the challenges they face, but they have to be presented with something that makes the reader turn the page to find out what happens. And whether they win or fail, it needs to move the story line along, and also help them become more self-aware, otherwise you can cut it out.
  5. Finally – look at your story and see if you can retell it as a country and western song. If you can do that and it stands strong, then you know your bones – your plotline and characters – are all good!

So, how long should your novel be? The short answer is that your novel should really only be as long as it needs to be. The most important thing is to create a well-written story for your reader to enjoy.

[1] This has been attributed to Ernest Hemingway, but no one knows for sure. For more, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/For_sale:_baby_shoes,_never_worn

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IndieMosh author successes in the 2020 Global Ebook Awards

It’s a good job helping people publish their books, and it’s wonderful when you see them achieving success and winning awards. For many years now our authors have been entering the Global Ebook Awards, and in 2020 we’re thrilled to announce that seven of our authors have managed to snare ten awards between them! Our congratulations (in alphabetical order) go to:

GJ Busiko

  • Silver in Science Fiction for The Destiny Stones

The Destiny Stones by GJ Busiko

Dianne Cikusa

  • Gold in Poetry for The Rain Sermon: Le Sermon de la Pluie
  • Bronze in Best Ebook Cover for The Rain Sermon: Le Sermon de la Pluie

The Rain Sermon by Dianne Cikusa

Nina Paine

  • Silver in Popular Literature Fiction for Sophie’s Sister

Kenneth Pakenham

  • Silver in Psychology/Mental Health Non-Fiction for The Trauma Banquet

The Trauma Banquet by Kenneth Pakenham

Allyn Radford

  • Gold in Popular Literature Fiction for The End of Forever

Allyn Radford

Natasha Simon

  • Silver in Best Ebook Cover for My Story Isn’t Over
  • Silver in Autobiography/Memoirs Non-Fiction for My Story Isn’t Over
  • Bronze in Psychology/Mental Health Non-Fiction for My Story Isn’t Over

My Story Isnt Over by Natasha Simon

Lachlan KW Stonehouse

  • Gold in Sports/Fitness/Recreation Non-Fiction for A Passion For Cricket

A Passion for Cricket by Lachlan KW Stonehouse

Congratulations again to all our winners! It’s great to see independently published books being appreciated for the value and diversity that they bring to readers across the world.

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Traditional vs Self vs Vanity publishing

In this new world of self publishing, it’s important to understand the differences between traditional, self and vanity publishing. But first we should start with a simple definition: What exactly is publishing?

The simple answer is: project management. The slightly more complex answer is: project management with a view to making a profit.

In the past, ‘traditional publishers’ would license a manuscript from an author. They would project manage turning that raw manuscript into a published book and as part of that process, they would also wear the cost and the risk.

In today’s world, there are less and less traditional publishers and it’s getting harder and harder to secure a publishing contract, leaving most people to self publish. Ergo… if you self publish, you’ll be managing the project and you’ll be wearing the financial risk!

So what is vanity publishing? This term was applied to most self publishing ventures until around 2010 when a separation began to take place in the public’s minds. With the advent of the Kindle, iPad and print on demand, the Ordinary Joe began to have access to great (and not-so-great!) books well outside the traditional publishing industry’s catalogue. As the public began to consume more and more self-published books, they also began to understand that just because something had been self published that didn’t mean it was crap. On the contrary, the public began to realise just how much they’d had withheld from them because so many stories and authors just didn’t fit the ideals of traditional publishers.

And as more and more self published books were consumed, the reading public also began to notice the differences in quality between those books which had been published with care by the author (having been edited, proofread, properly formatted or laid out, cover professionally designed), and those which hadn’t had the same level of care applied. Consequently, those books which get released without certain standards being applied by the author are referred to disparagingly as ‘vanity publications’.

To publish a book with some level of care is costly – hence the void traditional publishing houses played in the past. But in today’s world, less and less traditional publishers can afford to take the risks they used to, so if you can’t get a publishing contract, it doesn’t necessarily mean your book is crap, it just means the publishing house can’t see a way to make money out of it. And while I have seen people riled up about not getting a contract, they seem to forget that these publishing houses are in business, and if they don’t make money, they’ll soon be out of business!

But at least today you have affordable options as far as self publishing goes. You don’t need to print 2,000 copies and try to ship them to bookstores – you can use print on demand supply chains with retailing via the internet, worldwide. Or you can skip the print part and just release an ebook. Or add the print version later if you find the ebook making money for you.

And you don’t have to go it alone. With businesses like IndieMosh you can have people do as much or as little as you need help with.

So welcome to the 21st century and to what I hope will be your self publishing journey, and not a vanity publishing one! 😉

~ ~ ~

Self publishing for Australian authors
Self publishing for Australian authors

Jenny is the author of Self publishing for Australian authors: What you need to have, know and do, which can be purchased from your favourite online retailer via Jenny’s author page here: https://indiemosh.com.au/author-6/ 

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