The challenge of the novel (& a comment from a hardened novelist)

By JORDAN DEAN – 29 August 2017, Keith Jackson & Friends PNG Attitude

PORT MORESBY – Recently, I challenged myself to write a novel. I’ve written poetry and short stories, why not give it a try. Whether it’ll end up a good book, I don’t know.

This is something I’ve been contemplating a long time but the thought of writing a story with twists and turns for over 100 pages put me off.

Up to this point, I’ve written a paragraph here, a page there and a chapter somewhere else.

For the novel, I plan to write at least 500 words every day so that in three months I should have a novel of about 45,000 words.

The word count of a novel is debatable because each genre and narrative has different requirements. That said, most novels are no shorter than 40,000 words.

Currently, my word count is just above 9,000. Technically, it’s already a novella.

I believe everyone can write.

If you can undertake a simple conversation or chat on WhatsApp at night or express yourself on your Facebook wall, you are capable of writing. You don’t have to be educated or have a degree to be a good writer.

While I’m excited to write and see where it leads me, several challenges surface. Juggling a busy job and writing takes patience and determination. Then there’s the fear of running out of ideas and inspiration – the dreaded writer’s block.

Writing a novel is not easy, and there is no magical formula. But if I fail I’ll learn a thing or two along the way.

But I am going to write it anyway. Hell yes.


I reckon a novel should be at least 60,000 words Jordan but I’m coming around to the view that 30-40,000 words is acceptable in Papua New Guinea for two reasons.

Firstly the shorter form seems to appeal to PNG readers, possibly because it approximates the length of a traditional storytelling session.

And second, most PNG writers seem to have trouble going beyond the 40,000 word mark, the case in the past and also today.

My only quibble when it comes to publishing novels of that length is that it creates formatting problems, you can’t have a spine with text on it because it’s too narrow. That sort of thing.

Ulli Beier and others overcame that issue by publishing collections of short novels – see, for instance, ‘Three Short Novels from Papua New Guinea by Benjamin Umba, August Kituai and Jim Baital edited by Mike Greicus (Longman Paul, 1976). Still a thin volume but respectably book size.

My advice – don’t rush it.

Published by Ples Singsing

Ples Singsing is envisioned to be a new platform for Papua Niuginian expressions of creativity, ingenuity and originality in art and culture. We deliberately highlight these two very broad themes as they can encompass the diverse subjects, from technology, medicine and architecture to linguistics, music, fishing, gardening et cetera. Papua Niuginian ways of thinking, living, believing, communicating, dying and so on can cover the gamut of academic, journalistic or opinionated writing and we believe that unless we give ourselves a platform to talk about and discuss these things in an open, free and non-exclusively academic space that they may remain the fodder for academics, journalists and other types of writers alone. New social media platforms have given every individual a personal space to share their feelings and ideas openly, sometimes without immediate censure. The Ples Singsing writer’s blog would like to provide another more structured platform for Papua Niuginian expressions in written, visual and audio formats while also providing some regulation of the type and content of materials to be shared publicly.

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