1. thecitrusking
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    thecitrusking New Member

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    Excessive Length?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by thecitrusking, Oct 18, 2009.

    Hello everybody,

    Long term reader, first time poster. I've enjoyed hanging around on the site in the past and was hoping I could get an opinion on something (no, not a book concept). I've read that the average length for a novel is about 400 pages, or 120,000 words. I'm working on a manuscript that currently stands at 166 pages (the way I have it formatted in Word, set to a paperback's demensions) and about 50,000 words. It's been in the tubes for almost two years, and I've just recently started to really get rolling on it, which is why I ask now.

    It's a post-apocalyptic epic, and again, I won't go into the details here, but my plan is to have it reach roughly 600 pages. And there's my dilemma- several harrowing events have taken place, characters have been developed, lives put in jeopardy, etc. etc., and yet I still haven't gotten to my "quest", which is to be the central part of my plot.

    Oops?

    In many books I've read of this genre, the story starts out well after the world-ending event, making it easily accessible and quick to start. However, I wanted to distance myself from that and write "the hard stuff" by exploring my characters' feelings around the apocalypse. I've taken an alternating-plot threads approach, with two central characters that have (still) yet to meet in a meaningful way. I expect that to happen very soon, and then ensuing events should cap off the first section and define the characters' real goals at around 200 pages. Still, getting on that milestone I feel like I may have bloated things a little. My question to all of you is: Is a 600-page, 200,000 word novel too long, especially for an unpublished author? Am I taking too long in developing my exposition? I'd love to have your thoughts.
     
  2. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thecitrusking

    Yes, a 200,000 word novel by a first-time/unpublished author is way too long. Is it impossible to sell? No. But it is difficult enough to find an agent to represent an author (or a publisher if one goes that route directly--but still the agent has to sell the novel to a publisher).

    Most debut novels don't sell well. A large novel like that will take up more shelf space (bookstores will be less likely to stock it) and it will be more expensive (more money out of the publisher's pocket for printing and shipping and time consuming to edit, etc.).

    The odds of success are already stacked against a writer. Why place an additional hurdle, making success even more remote by attempting to sell a novel that is about twice as long as most publishers prefer to see?

    Many publishers/agents, once they read in the cover letter/see the length of the novel, it will go right to the rejection pile without even being given consideration.

    I've hit the main points, but this topic has been covered at length several times on this forum. Seach and you'll locate the appropraite threads.

    Just my two cents.

    Terry
     
  3. Sillraaia
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    Sillraaia Senior Member

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    Terry said it best.
    If the story you have written so far is not turning out to be the one you wanted to write, you could always make it into something else and write the one you had in mind later on.

    Or you could split it in two. Make a plot to your current story, then make the other one you had in mind its sequel.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Ditto to the above. Also, forget about page count, and forget about formatting it to a particular page layout. Only word count matters, and the only formatting you should strive for is manuscript submission format.

    First off, look at potential publishers. Many post manuscript guidelines. In general, the most commonly preferred format is a 12 point serif font (Courier New is widely recommended), Letter sized paper (8.5" x 11"), 1" margins on all sides. Courier is often considered much more readable than Times New Roman. The text should be left-aligned (ragged right), and numbering begins after the title page.

    Short pieces generally do not require a cover page. Instead, the title and auther (pen name) appear at the top of page 1. As always, check your publisher's submission guidelines to see whether a title page is requested.

    Paragraph format should be double spaced, with no leading or trailing vertical spacing, and with a 0.5" first line indent.

    Each page except the title page should have a header that contains the author's last name (pen name), condensed title (some publishers suggest all caps), and page number. When submitting a hardcopy manuscript, it should be printed single-sided unless the publisher specifies otherwise.

    Before submitting, check that publishers's guidelines and make appropriate adjustments. The above settings will meet many publishers' guidelines and will require minimal changes for most others.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you're now our own bill shunn, cog!
     
  6. MelissaLynne
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    MelissaLynne Member

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    Sometimes if you're like me and can't stop writing, your story could end up having more pages than desired of a novel! I have stories that just keep going on and on, I can't just stop at 400 pages if its not done yet. Don't worry about the length of the story, worry about it when you have finished it! When you finish, try breaking it up in to parts and you might have to do a little refurnishing. Many authors have this problem, and I think that's why sequels were invented!
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you shouldn't be thinking in pages, ml, but in word count... that's what the industry uses as a measuring stick... and for a new writer with a first novel, 80-100k is what most publishers prefer nowadays...
     
  8. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    This route is okay, but you should make sure the first part can stand on its own. If there are any unfinished story elements, it better be ones that the average reader can live with, not knowing if there will be another book coming.
     
  9. Fox Favinger
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    Fox Favinger Contributing Member

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    Yeah I've started stuff that I knew was going to go way over 100,000 words. I think it was last year I was just trying to tell the story in a brief way, no drawn out action scenes and minimal details throughout. I got to 15,000 words and looked at my notes, I merely covered the intro to the actual plot and still had a ton of elements to add to the extremely complex plot. Nothing dragged mind you, there was just a ton of stuff going on. I'm not one for compromise though, I decided to put down that novel for a while and I started a new one a month later with a much simpler set up. I feel confident I may just reach that 100k-120,000 mark.

    I'm not suggesting you do the same, perhaps cutting it down to the essentials may help the story overall, but if your like me and want to tell the whole damned story maybe you should write something else on the side. Get your foot in the door before dropping a brick of a manuscript on their desks lol
     
  10. Little Miss Edi
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    Little Miss Edi Contributing Member

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    I think at this point you should probably forget how long it is or how long your aiming for it to be. Like Cogito says, forget formatting as well.

    At this stage you could write on post-it notes with pink felt tips or napkins with tomato sauce... just write. Get it all down. Then leave it a bit, come back to it and get snip-snip-snipping with the editing and cut out all the unnecessary or redundant bits. Go in there with a mind to be ruthless and streamline your novel into a well honed beast.

    Then look at the word count.

    Personally, it's better to have too much then too little because it's always easier (imo) to take away then it is to add. Plus, I'm a ruthless editor but I appreciate it isn't always easy for people to hack into their darlings :p
     

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