Length of novel issues

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Ermo
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Length of novel issues

Post by Ermo » February 2nd, 2010, 3:08 pm

Hey all -

I'm not sure what it is but I have a real hard time producing anything all that long. I feel like my novels would definitely be in the 50k-70k range and I'm not sure why I'm unable to produce anything much longer. Does anybody else have the same problem? Does it matter? I ask because I wonder if other authors are putting in much more back story or are much more descriptive when writing about characters and settings than I am.

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aspiring_x
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Re: Length of novel issues

Post by aspiring_x » February 2nd, 2010, 4:14 pm

I think that the story will take as many words as it needs to be written.
That said, my story used to be 116k and halfway through this fourth edit it now stands at 102k. A lot of what I cut was filler. I didn't realize it was filler at the time, but filler it was. In my case there was too much back story and description. It slowed the story way down. Every character, setting, whatever should have a past that has shaped them into who or what they are. But we don't need to include everything in the novel.
I wonder if you just did a good job of keeping the story clean and tight to begin with. If you feel like your story is too short, I do have one question. Do your characters reach their goals too easily?

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christi
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Re: Length of novel issues

Post by christi » February 2nd, 2010, 4:56 pm

I like a complicated story with lots of characters, so my problem is usually reeling myself back and STOP making new people and scenes :-) I started to freak out when my story was over 150,000 and had to cut scenes and plots to scale it down to 125,000. I'm still trimming out extras that I find here and there (trimming unnecessary 'that's is exceedingly helpful), but to make my story any smaller would cramp the story arc. There's just too much going on and too many people involved. Not that I wouldn't take an agent or editor's advice of which might destract from the story, but to my eye it is all equally valuable so cannot judge for myself.
Would you sign my story for a Klondike bar?

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Emily White
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Re: Length of novel issues

Post by Emily White » February 2nd, 2010, 5:27 pm

My first drafts tend to be about the 50-70,000 range, but then I add a bit more during the editing process. I don't think it's a necessarily a bad thing to have such a small word count in your finished product, just as long as your story is complete and thorough.
Find out about ELEMENTAL, my YA Space Opera (available June 21, 2011) on my blog and ELEMENTAL's facebook fan page

tameson
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Re: Length of novel issues

Post by tameson » February 2nd, 2010, 6:08 pm

My current novel first draft was 55k. Then I realized, wow, that so does not work- I skipped the most important scenes (some problems with being in the wrong viewpoint character at the wrong moments). So, I went through and added those- which moved me up to 70k. And then I started editing for reals and my first 30k have expanded to 39k, meaning that if I quit now, I would be at 79k. For a fantasy novel, this is dang short. I am projecting that I'll end at 85k, but still, for fantasy dang short. I also don't have any sequels planned. :( This book has a fairly straightforward plotline and only one major plotline (subplots yes, but no big things).

In the next projected book, I have 3 major plotlines going on, plus it ends with a satisfying ending, but the seeds of the next novel are well planted. And it is much more high concept. I am hoping that one will be a bit longer (based on outline so far, it should be). With more plotlines it better (my MC is a very busy person and gets involved in a lot of things- thwarting her father's plans, saving her soul mates life and plotting the fall of a foreign country).

So, yes, I feel your pain. Not sure how to fix it, but I feel it. :)

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Jaime
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Re: Length of novel issues

Post by Jaime » February 2nd, 2010, 8:05 pm

I write too much, and then agonize over editing a lot of it out. My first draft was 175K, but after a gazillion edits, I now have it down to 120K. I didn't think it was possible, and my beta readers freaked out because they were scared their favourite bits would go, but I've managed to keep almost everything in there - the stuff that NEEDS to be in there, anyway. I'm currently at 50K with the sequel, but I'm not so worried about that. I'd say I am around a third of the way through, but if I sell my first novel, word count may not be all that big a deal with the sequel (fingers crossed).

r louis scott
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Re: Length of novel issues

Post by r louis scott » February 2nd, 2010, 8:09 pm

I think that it is pretty well accepted that certain genres are expected to be a little longer than others. Science fiction, fantasy, and historicals all need a certain degree of world building so tend to be a bit higher in word count. My historical is at 129K words and I'm pretty comfortable with that. The sequel will likely run the same, but the third book is going to be a bullet proof it will be so large. I don't think I've ever run across an agent website that publicly stated a word count limit, but I'm beting they have a magic number that gets a "no thanks" response every time.

rwarrencfp
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Re: Length of novel issues

Post by rwarrencfp » February 2nd, 2010, 9:02 pm

My most recent work came in at 110,000 by the end of the first draft. By the time I'm done adding and cutting it will probably be around 100,000. I find it easier to take away than to add.

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Lorelei Armstrong
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Re: Length of novel issues

Post by Lorelei Armstrong » February 3rd, 2010, 12:30 am

I am always in terror that whatever novel I'm working on will come in under 75K. The one that was published in 2008 came in at 95.5K, and the one whose rough draft I finished today is 96.3K. So my phobia is in error, and I seem to have a consistent length emerging. But I'm sure I'll be just as nervous about the next one.

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Scott
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Re: Length of novel issues

Post by Scott » February 3rd, 2010, 3:40 pm

I'm not sure if it's from writing so many screenplays and short stories, but I just get a 'feeling' from a story idea. It's uncanny how close I can come to within a few hundred words of my goal, even after extensive editing.

LydiaSharp
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Re: Length of novel issues

Post by LydiaSharp » February 3rd, 2010, 4:25 pm

Ditto what Scott said. Except I don't write screenplays.
I think this comes from practice and from knowing your word count goal at the start. I write fiction in all different lengths (flash fiction, short stories, novellas, and novels). You'd be surprised how easily you can get a story to flow within whatever bounds you give it, but it's a conscious effort from start to finish. I'm sorry if that doesn't help at all. This is honestly something I've never had a real problem with so I can't offer advice on how to overcome it other than, "keep practicing."
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cmrprindle
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Re: Length of novel issues

Post by cmrprindle » February 5th, 2010, 12:16 pm

I'm actually having problems at both ends. The first story in my monster series (which started out as mere single novel with 4 parts) is far, far too short at about 31k. The next book is a much more comfortable 101k, but that's before editing. Before checking the former's word count, I considered mushing the two books together. And maybe after editing down the 2nd book this will be doable, but otherwise I have a need for at least 50k more words, very likely more, in something that feels very finished to me. And finding beta readers has been surprisingly hard. This is what I get for having friends who don't support my genre or who, gasp, don't read. They're all very supportive of my endeavor...they just won't critique. The wretched curs.

tameson
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Re: Length of novel issues

Post by tameson » February 5th, 2010, 1:59 pm

cmrprindle- you might want to find an online crit group for your genre. Generally, the rule is you do X many crits, you get your work critted. There was a thread with online groups listed at some point. But yeah, 30k words is way too short.

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cmrprindle
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Re: Length of novel issues

Post by cmrprindle » February 5th, 2010, 4:08 pm

You should have seen my face when I realized the first thing I wrote -- which is now a later part of the series - is a mere 11k and change. No wonder I once blogged "I re-read my story and boy is it a quick read!" Ha, Self. Ha!

Edit And after I wrote my previous post I immediately went searching the forum for threads regard crit groups, so I'm on my way. Still kinda grumpy with my friends, but happy to be moving forward :)

tameson
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Re: Length of novel issues

Post by tameson » February 5th, 2010, 7:12 pm

viewtopic.php?f=2&t=103

Here's the link- I was being lazy earlier. :)
I am on critters. I haven't gotten anything critted yet, but it is an easy enough set up for doing crits.

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