Novel Length

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Re: Novel Length

Post by gonzo2802 » April 5th, 2010, 1:28 pm

I agree with what a lot of the others have already said. I know it isn't what you want to hear, but that's just too much story, especially for a debut novel. I'm fairly certain you're going to run into automatic rejections because of word count alone.

Either give it a hard, brutal look and find a way to hack it down to somewhere close to the 100,000K range, or put it away and come back to it at a later time when you have more freedom like the Rowlings, Meyers and Kings.

I'm telling you this as someone who's rough draft started out at 150,000 and now the query length rests at 84,000. At times it can be really hard, but you'd be surprised how much you can cut out and actually <i>improve</i> the story by doing so.

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Re: Novel Length

Post by bcomet » April 6th, 2010, 8:24 pm

I've always been a firm believer that a story has to be as long as it takes to tell it fully and well.

I've seen a lot of great stories just get chopped into fragments until they don't work anymore–nothing's holding them together.
Just as often I've seen stories with way too much extra material, (a lot of it good too, but in one case, enough extra for a half-dozen or dozen books).

I've gotten in deep with preferred book length issues. My first one is a novella. My second is a good length but way too experimental.
My third is a fantasy at 115-130,000 words: a bit over preferred.
MY current BIG WIP looks like it will go on to about 130,000 words.

So I took a break because I wanted a shorter novel (and I want to keep taking my time on the longer one)
and I had this shorter story.
I just finished it TODAY!!! (Yip Yippie)

It's complete at 63,000 words.

Sometimes I feel so like Goldilocks.

And this one was just right!

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Re: Novel Length

Post by KappaP » April 7th, 2010, 8:07 am

I'm in lit fic too, and honestly it's hard to sell anything over 120 or 130 at MOST. There are always exceptions, but don't bank on being an exception.

When I finished my ms it was 129K. I thought "I can edit, but there's not much I can really take out." Sent out a few queries. No go. Went through and got braver with the edits, got it down to 122K. Sent some queries out, no go.

That was about 2 months after finishing the ms. I'd read through it a million times and eventually some pattens glared out at me: the linguist in me was compelled to describe body language all the time. Does it help sometimes? Yes. Is it needed all the time? Absolutely not. I went through with a very critical eye for body language alone and got it down to about 117K. In doing that, I noticed a sentence structure I used a lot. Went through again with a critical eye for that. Got it to 114K.

As I edited it that time, I realized I was skipping sections of my beginning. I subconsciously recognized it was too slow. I went through, scraped 100% of the first 60K words and rewrote. Finished that last week-- now the beginning is far, far tighter, the voice is more consistent AND the word count sits at 105K.

Now? I'm going through looking for how many times I say someone "was sitting" or "was watching" and changing it, when possible, to someone "sat" or "watched."

All said and done, I bet this thing will clock in around 103K. And how many story lines did I take out? Zero. I ADDED story lines, details, easter eggs. All 24K words (96 pages!) I scraped weren't characters or story lines, they were unnecessary writing. Good writing, for the most part, but unnecessary.

The fact of the matter, in my opinion, is that not many STORIES take over 400 pages to tell. The pages and words beyond that enhance only. Any story in the universe could be written up so that it's 200K words, but very few are.

You know your work better than I do, obviously, but that's my two cents. I didn't think I could take anything, knew I couldn't sacrifice story lines. But I cut a huge amount just from editing my writing STYLE and it went from a hard-to-sell length to an extremely marketable length for literary.

Good luck!

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