1. CGB
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    CGB Active Member

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    Science Fiction 1st author Word count?

    Discussion in 'By the Genre' started by CGB, Jun 27, 2015.

    What do you think is an acceptable word count to aim for if you are writing a 1st-time Sci-Fi novel? I know Pandora's Star is like 350 words, but I assume that new authors shouldn't really be aiming for something that ambitious.
     
  2. plothog
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    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I assume you mean 350k rather than 350 ;)

    Googling word count for space opera (assuming you want to write in the same sub-genre as Pandora's star)- it looks the recommended length for new authors is 90k-120k.

    A 350k word novel by a new author in any genre will be rejected by most publishers and agents without anyone reading a word.
     
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  3. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    Honestly, don't aim for any wc. Write what story you've got and think about wc in the editing stage because that's probably going to make it fluctuate greatly.
     
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  4. ToeKneeBlack
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    ToeKneeBlack Contributing Member Contributor

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    I went for a modest 57000, just to test the waters.
     
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  5. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you look at some the guidelines of the major publishers of SF, such as Baen Books: "Preferred length: 100,000 - 130,000 words Generally we are uncomfortable with manuscripts under 100,000 words, but if your novel is really wonderful send it along regardless of length." Serving on panels over the years, I've heard three Baen editors say: "Story trumps everything else."

    Don't just look at one. Check out other publishers you'd consider sending your manuscript off to once it's finished (if you're intending to be published rather than self publish).

    Also, check out books by first time authors (online or via bookstores), and see approximately how long they are. Estimate the number of words per page and multiply it by the number of pages. From that data you should be able to obtain a ballpark word count figure.

    My personal opinion based on my experience? I'd say keep it under 150,000 words but above 90,000.

    But, for example, if your novel ends up at 75,000 words, you're better off with it that way rather than trying to add 15,000 words and lowering the quality in the process.

    If it's your first time attempting a novel, get through that first draft. Even if it ends up 170,000 words, you'll find that in revision/editing there's an awful lot that can be cut while improving the story.

    Can a significantly longer or shorter novel sell to a publisher? Yes. It's just making the prospect more difficult. But don't let word count inhibit your completion of that novel. If you don't finish it and send the manuscript out (to agents/editors) there is absolutely no hope of finding a publisher.

    Good luck!

     
  6. Void
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    Void Contributing Member

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    While this is true to a certain extent, if you're looking at ~350k words as even a potential figure then it would take one hell of an editing job to get it back down to ~90k, unless it contained ~260k filler, which would have to be worth some kind of prize for meandering pointlessness.

    It's probably still a good idea to have at least some kind of rough idea of whether you're beginning a small and humble story or a massive door-stopper, because you really don't want to find yourself with a 200k manuscript (after editing) and realise you've written yourself out of any reasonable publishing prospects.
     
  7. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Well I can see that this is where "newbies" dreams come to get squashed. The reason so many get rejected is because of selective snobs, it has little bearing on word count (unless there are specific parameters in place). By the way when did 80k become a novel? Just being curious on that one, as the meaning of a novel to me means at least 200+ pages. Back to the point. From what I have read from various established authors in some material on my kindle, is that you need to have an "eye catcher" to even get a chance at even having it looked at. Though I suppose it helps to have a good hook with in the first 10 pages, otherwise out it goes. I know we all can't be the "next big thing". In short it is a lot like high school, one big popularity contest. How else can you explain why there are so many horrible to read books that seem lack luster. I rather like the old school authors that could really tell a damn good story, shame most of them are dead or retired. Sorry I grew up on Bradbury (rest his soul), Zelazny, and Piers Anthony to name a few. Ok shutting up now, just sharing my thoughts. :p
     
  8. nippy818
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    nippy818 Active Member

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    I shot for 80k my first draft and succeeded with more fluff then i wanted. finishing my second write thru, down to 67k, my third write thru will ad details and additional needed dialog, i should end up around 90k
     
  9. nippy818
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    nippy818 Active Member

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    80k words with 350 words per page, comes to about 230 pages.
     
  10. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Good to know. That's an interesting little fact. Could have sworn I have read one or two with a lot more than that on a page. Either that or I should stop thinking they just shrink Word pages (boy that sure makes me feel like a dumbass). Be proud for you have enlightened me with your knowledge. Thank you. I must now go and don the ceremonial cap labeled DUNCE. :p
     
  11. nippy818
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    nippy818 Active Member

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    I used to think that as well. I believe the 350 per page is kindle standard. 6 characters per word. I take my total characters, divide by six and feel disappointed lol. My novel is hard boiled crime so lots of little fifty cent words. "Don't use a five dollar word when a fifty-cent word will do." Mark Twain
     
  12. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Well that is also good to know. Can I take my DUNCE cap off now?

    I have been working on my first piece and it is still in progress. A Sci-fi war type, that does not rely on the standard "lasers and shields" to glam it up. I am afraid that if I share how many words are in it they will tell me the same as the OP. All I can say is that it has passed 100k inching up to 120k and is no where near the finish line.
     
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  13. nippy818
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    nippy818 Active Member

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    There will always be those who know more than everyone else. I do this as a hobby and really nothing more. I'll try my hand with publishers and if that doesn't work I'll self publish. 120k is a huge achievement. you should be proud. Worst case scenario, you throw it on the web for the world and be happy with the 100 views it might get, but you will always know you tried.
     
  14. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    I am, considering I celebrated hitting forty pages way back when I was just starting. It was way more than I had ever written before on a single document of any kind. That speaks volumes to another work that was more Hard BDSM trying to moonlight as a romance back when I was 17 (wow that was 11 years ago) and it was a mere 32 pages, I think. Haven't revisited that in a long time.
    I would be happy with one person enjoying the monster I have created.

    I wish you the best of luck, hope you make it. I have faith in you. Now reach for the stars, LIKE A BOSS! :p
     
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  15. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    For shits n giggles:

    the software project I started working on in 2010 is
    Client:
    ~1,828,143 characters (bytes)
    ~304690 words

    Website:
    ~795,621 characters (bytes)
    ~132603 words

    It's enough for a trilogy!!

    o_O
     
  16. nippy818
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    nippy818 Active Member

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    Dear god YES. you should be really proud lulz
     
  17. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    That is quite impressive. Where do I send the cookie? Better rethink that one. Not sure if it is proper etiquette to send a cookie to an egotistical ass. :D

    Seriously though, not cool.

    Well since the cookie is already to be shipped, I will send it despite the fact that is rather harsh of you. And no you will not get a card with it (it had a cute little puppy on it, just so you know). :p
     
  18. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    That all depends on what those 120k words are comprised of. So many new 'authors' judge their achievement by word count and not word quality. How is word count even relevant? Typing lots does not equal typing well. Anyone, anyone, can type lots.

    I'm more than happy to sweat blood over 12.8 words a day.
     
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  19. nippy818
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    nippy818 Active Member

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    Putting down 120k is a lot of work, especially in this day and age. We can't measure achievement by success. If we did then must of us are failures.
     
  20. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    What does .8 of a word look lik
     
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  21. AspiringNovelist
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    AspiringNovelist Contributing Member

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    As a suggestion only, I would try to get to 80K or above as a start. The reason, it's your first novel -- it will get torn apart and slimmed down like you wouldn't believe.
     
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  22. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    True anyone can type a lot of words and go nowhere with them. I have spent many months to get where I am. Though for me it is like painting. There is an art to coagulating a mass of 26 characters into a grander design. I rather find the evolution to be an achievement over any amount of words ranging in the thousands. To simply set such goals speaks volumes about the parts that are omitted to the overall story. :p
     
  23. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Well then I shall make it a challenge for them to simply use the sheers. Perhaps being just convoluted enough so that when they cut into it, they will have to take the stump out as well. Cause this guy has a very elaborate tree that will not work with out certain branches. :D
     
  24. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    There's an old saying that the first million words are practice. If you have never attempted a novel before, don't sweat word count. You have way too much to learn for that to be a concern. Set yourself a target, if you like, but turn the word count function off until you've completed your first draft. Concentrate on mastering the various aspects of novel writing.

    Good luck.
     
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  25. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Writing is an art, but like all things there are no masters. Just the good, the bad, and the obscure. :p
     

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