1. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Honest opinions (regarding word count)

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by 123456789, Nov 17, 2014.

    My WIP is, at draft 3, currently ~ 145, 000 words long. How screwed am I if I intended to one day send out inquiries? Any and all advice appreciated.
     
  2. Lilly James Haro
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    Lilly James Haro The Grey Warden

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    Honestly, I think it would have to be a very interesting and different idea at that length
     
  3. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    It depends on the story. If it's really good, publishers might look past the length. If you are an unknown quantity, I'm not so sure.
     
  4. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I haven't made word cuts yet. I'm hoping maybe I can get down to 120k. Would that help much or still too long?
     
  5. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I don't think you should cut to meet a word count. If the book needs trimming, trim it. For me, I've needed to shorten sentences like crazy in my editing process. I explain way too much and use unneeded filter words when the paragraphs first pour out. I'm finding they are much better when I correct that habit.

    I say shorten the book only if it sounds better shortened. The other option is to find a way to make a duology out of it. But again, the story needs to lend itself to a duology. The way Twilight, Hunger Games and the last Harry Potter edition were split into two movies, I find troublesome. While it's the movies not the books, I think the audiences are getting tired of producers stretching one book into two movies. It's easy to be cynical that it wasn't the length of the book, it was the desire to milk the series for more money.

    Sorry, I'm digressing.
     
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  6. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Oh, it makes me really sad to read this.

    You've laboured long and hard on a 145,000-word novel, and it's exactly the right length for the story itself—and now you feel you have to cut it down in order to get an agent or publisher to look at it? That's awful. When I think of all the great books out there that are that long or longer, it makes me really sad.

    Cutting a long book into a short one completely destroys pace and impact. Think of all those awful 'abridged' novels out there that used to be popular with quickie publishers like Reader's Digest, etc. They pandered to the non-reader market by taking popular novels and cutting them in half or whatever, so they could fit a couple of them into a single book—which made them 'easy to read.' Heck, why not just do Cliff's Notes and be done with it?

    I'd say check up on exact requirements from any agent or publishing house you would like to approach. See what their rules are. And do they require a word-count with the submission? (Of course they do.)

    @GingerCoffee 's suggestion about cutting words rather than scenes or large chunks of the story is a good one, and should be done in any case. However, if you've already done that sort of thing, and pared away all the excess that you and your beta readers can find, then you're left with only three choices.

    Grit your teeth and gut your story. Or write another shorter one to get yourself in the door. Or—go for self-publishing.

    I'd say don't waste too much time chasing after people who aren't going to give your story a fair shot. As for making money with your writing, you won't make any if you don't get published. At least with self-publishing you stand to make some. And if your novel is good, it might well catch on.

    I really think publishers need to rethink this horrendous 'rule' they've just set up. They are passing up lots of potentially great books, and settling for the 'quick read' crowd, without actually checking the standard of writing in the longer submissions. This is not a good development.

    Of course long books can be badly written and over-written—but so can short ones.
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2014
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  7. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks for response. I haven't gotten to the word reduction stage. Hopefully I'm underestimating how many crap words need to go, and freaking out over nothing.
    Do you have any idea how many words you managed to eliminate from highest word draft to current draft?
     
  8. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks! I still need to trim(I have not focused on trimming yet) but I can't imagine going from 140k all the way down to 100k! That means cutting almost every 3rd to 4th word!
     
  9. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Well good luck! I know exactly how you feel, but I made my mind up about this a long time ago. I'm not bothering with traditional publishing. I'm editing the skunk out of my novel myself, and when it's done, I'm going for self-publishing.

    Mine is a lot longer than yours! And has already been cut by more than a third. It's just a long story, and isn't one that could be split in half. In fact, it's carefully constructed so what gets started at the start gets finished at the end.

    It's taken me a long time to write it, to get the tone right, to get the immersion factor in place. But I've had some betas zip through the MS in just a few days, so I know it's readable, even in its imperfectly-edited form. (Including one who called in sick to his work—which he enjoys—because he'd reached a stage where he didn't want to put it down. He gave me some excellent feedback, by the way, which saw me cutting a chapter, combining two others, and completely re-thinking a POV issue for one scene.) I have cut scenes, even chapters, and am doing the trimming of words, even now at this late stage. But that's to improve the flow of writing, NOT to attain some arbitrary word-count goal.

    I wish you well, whatever you decide to do.
     
  10. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not surprised yours is even longer ;)

    Look, of course I'm not going to damage my novel just to make a word count. Once it is finished, if it's still too long, I'll just shelve it.
     
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  11. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Also, if you can cut yours by a third, that gives me hope. You just cut out extraneous words and scenes?
     
  12. plothog
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    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I'm not an expert on the publishing industry, but I gathered at 120k some publishers will give you a look in.
    It depends somewhat on what you're writing. For example 120k is normally fine for science fiction and fantasy, but will get you nowhere with a romance.
    It can depend a bit on the particular agent and publisher. Some specify in their submission guidelines.

    Tor UK say in their submission guidelines,
    "For direct submissions we only consider complete and unpublished science fiction, fantasy and horror novels, written in English of between 95,000 – 150,000 words. "

    So in their case 145k would be a better bet than 90k, though I've not seen anyone else skew that high.
     
  13. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Having ended up with a 200k+ behemoth, I can tell you, you can only do so much by shortening sentences. :(

    T and I have been working forever on our fat baby, but in the end, we just decided to cut the whole thing in half. We'll offer the first book as a standalone, and if it gets published by some miracle, and even by some bigger miracle sells, maybe the second book would get pubbed as well.

    We've also deleted scenes 'cause as a writer you tend to become a bit blind to what's really essential, so listen to your betas there. If they say the story lagged or they didn't see a point in some side adventure-ish thing, consider cutting stuff out and don't get too precious over it, even if it felt like cutting pieces off your baby.

    What you've got might be a bit much for a lot of publishers, but if it's really good... who knows?

    Good luck! And sorry about the gory imagery.
     
  14. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Oh, no, I had to do a lot more than that. I whumped away several entire chapters, which were not contributing strongly to the story. I also cut many many MANY whole scenes, which were either repetitive or simply not necessary.

    I was a dreadful re-stater, too. I could never just say something and leave it, but had to repeat it in different forms for emphasis. Say it three times and it's true? Only in fairy tales. NOT in novel writing! Axing THAT habit cut away a lot of dreck, I can tell you. Of course I did the usual adjective/adverb culls, rejigged passages of dialogue, pared away excess description, etc etc that goes along with any edit. And made a huge effort to move the story along, rather than stopping constantly to admire the scenery.

    There wasn't any one thing that got cut more than any other. Cutting extraneous words was the easiest bit, and did reduce the word count by a fair amount. Cutting scenes and chapters was harder, because I'd worked hard to create them in the first place. But if they gotta go, they gotta go.

    Just for information, I've also ADDED a few scenes that made the bridging between events clearer—including reworking of the start of my Prologue. I also reinstated one chapter I'd cut, when I was in full-on clear-out mode. It left an emotional gap, and one beta pointed it out to me. So it went back in, albeit in reduced form. So editing isn't all cutting.

    It's fun, when you're cutting stuff you know needs to go. There is only one chapter I cut that I regret. Not that I'm tempted to reinstate it, because it really was diversionary, but because it was good for character development and interesting background. I didn't throw it away, though, and it' might well appear in a sequel. Ach well. All the other cuts felt GREAT to make. I could see a vast improvement immediately.

    Taking stuff out that needed to go, once I recognised the problem, was no problem. Taking stuff out that I really feel needs to be there, just to reduce word count?— that would be the point where I'd balk.
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2014
  15. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Or a bonus chapter. I like bonus chapters. Like deleted scenes on a DVD.
     
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Ha ha! Well if the fan club demands it ...I've got it! Now I need to get a fan club....
     
  17. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Does a fan club of two count as a club? o_O
     
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  18. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Awww.... :love:
     
  19. TWErvin2
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    145,000 words will add an additional hurdle in your attempts to find representation/a publisher via the 'traditional' route. Some of it will depend on the genre. Fantasy and SF tend to be more open to longer works, but like others above indicated, the quality of the story in the end is what will count the most.

    I can tell you that my SF novel, at 183,000 words made it out of the slush pile with both Baen and Tor and garnered full reads, before being passed on. My current (small) publisher picked it up and it's done well. My fantasy novels (three in the series) have all been between 126,000 to 129,000 words.

    If you're going to edit, there is nothing wrong with working to trim what isn't necessary. That is always a good thing.

    My advice would be to complete it to the best of your ability, send it out into the world to find representation and/or a publisher (if that's your objective). Start a new project while your first one is seeking a publishing home. Learn from the first process, if you're concerned about word count, and craft a slightly shorter novel for the second. Before you know it, you'll have two works finished and seeking a home (or the first may have found one already). This, I believe, is preferable to spending the same time and effort revising and rewriting the longer first work to make the storyline fit into the smaller word count.

    Good luck as you move forward.
     
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  20. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Your advice is always useful, kindly put and sensible. And you know what you're talking about. It's always a pleasure to read your contributions to the forum.
     
  21. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is what I'll do. Thanks so much.
     
  22. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I usually read my story until I'm nearly sick of it. Then I can usually spot the things that aren't necessary - redundancy ( both in words - small stuff like sentences but also redundant scenes i.e. - they've already discussed this or that and this new scene adds nothing new ) things that cause the action to lag, descriptions that can be trimmed, dialogue that can be tightened, dull stuff that doesn't add beauty, define character or further plot - junk scenes that are just taking up space.

    I usually copy and paste the story in a new folder and just start highlighting and deleting.

    But I must say since joining this site I've learned some much needed brevity. One of my novels prior to joining here is a whopping 653 pages - I won't tell you the word count it's embarrassing - what's even more embarrassing is it's not an epic, or a fantasy. I just lost control of I pov.
     
  23. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Fantasy can be longer, so depending on the genre, you might not be as bad off as you fear. Generally novels are between 80-120K, so looking at that higher range of normal, you may too far off the mark.

    The toughest thing is the sell to agents. They'll tell you over and over the most important thing is a well-written excerpt. So if you send them a first chapter, synopsis, etc. that knocks their socks off, those extra 20-30K words aren't going to matter that much. Now, telling them up front that it's 145K is going to make them cringe, though. So your only choice is to go over it again and again and again and critique the f*ck out of it to get it as lean and smooth as possible. Then go about it from the "quality" angle.
     
  24. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Nah, I'll give a dishonest opinion.

    It won't matter at all. Submissions editors have plenty of time on their hands and a shortage of submissions to look at. They would never use a simple criterion like a word count well outside their posted guidelines to thin out the submissions from unknown writers.
     
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  25. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks to everyone but Cogito for their helpful posts!
     
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