It’s A Geometrical Problem!

During one of her interviews Oprah mentioned that for her a good novel must be over 300 or 350 pages long. I don’t remember the exact number of pages even though I had it somewhere in my notes.

I personally don’t agree. Literature is full of stories that say otherwise. Because the value of a book for me is not in the number of pages. It is in the story, the characters, the way it is written, and most importantly the way I as a reader connect with the story and the characters.


Among my all time favorites are Hemingway’s “The Old Man and The Sea”, Mitch Albom’s “Tuesdays With Morrie” and “For One More Day”, Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting For Godot”, Naguib Mahfouz’s “Midaq Alley”, Albert Camus’ “L’etranger” (The Outsider), Robert James Waller’s “Bridges of Madison County”, and Erich Segal’s “Love Story” just to name a few. 

Georges Simenon, one of the most productive writers of the twentieth century, has altogether 550 million copies of his work printed. He has written nearly 200 novels, over 150 novellas, several autobiographical works, numerous articles, and scores of pulp novels using different pseudonyms. Capable of writing 60 to 80 pages per day, his novels are not much longer than some short stories. Most of his works are written and revised in about two weeks. Here’s how he does it:  

“It is almost a geometrical problem. I have such a man, such a woman, in such surroundings. What can happen to them to oblige them to go to their limit? That’s the question. It will be sometimes a very simple incident, anything which will change their lives. Then I write my novel chapter by chapter. On the eve of the first day I know what will happen in the first chapter. Then day after day, chapter after chapter, I find what comes later. After I started a novel I write a chapter each day, without ever missing a day. Because it is a strain, I have to keep pace with the novel. All day I am one of my characters. I feel what he feels. … And it’s almost unbearable after five or six days. That is one of the reasons why my novels are so short; after eleven days I can’t- it’s impossible. I have to- It’s physical. I am too tired.”  

Nobody else writes in quite the same fashion as Simenon. When asked if he would continue writing novels even if they were not published, he answers “certainly.” 

“I think that if a man has the urge to be an artist it is because he needs to find himself. Every writer tries to find himself through his characters, through all his writing.” Georges Simenon


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1 Response to It’s A Geometrical Problem!

  1. I agree – it is the story that is important not the number of pagesit takes to tell it.. what a strange comment to make! I recently read Herland, which I’d always assumed was a large novel – it is in fact more novella length. However, the story included all the vital elements, beginning, middle & end and the narrative carried me along with the characters. My story’s set their own pace, plot arc and length – I free flow the ideas and write until there is a satisfactory conclusion.

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