1. mrieder79
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    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    Is 115k words too long for a sci-fi thriller?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by mrieder79, Mar 6, 2016.

    Hi,

    It's been awhile since I posted. That's because I was writing my book. Now I'm done and I want to pursue traditional publishing. My current manuscript is 115k words. I have received feedback that this is too long, but before I start more slash and burn I want to make sure it is necessary.

    Thanks for any advice.
     
  2. Raven484
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    Raven484 Contributing Member

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    Feedback from whom? I know if it is your first work going after traditional they will put you on a word count unless you blow their minds with your story. Usually after a few successful books they will let you set the limit.
    Congrats on finishing and good luck with publishing. Hope to see you soon in the Bookstore section.
     
  3. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    In short, no. 115k is at the higher end of acceptable for a debut sci-fi (assuming it's debut).

    If I were you, I'd fix it in my mind that it HAS to be under 110k. Finding 5k words to lose will really help you identify anything in your story that doesn't need to be there. I did this - my first draft was 114k, and I told myself it HAD to be under 100k. I ended up with a much, much better book at 97k.
     
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  4. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Is it too long because there are unnecessary scenes? It's really easy to write something you think is needed, only to realize, after letting your ms sit for a while, that it's not. I read someone's self published novel ( it was about 400 pages and a fantasy ) that I actually thought could be trimmed by 100 pages. Their were too many rehashed discussions and similar scenes. Not everything felt necessary.

    I'd maybe try a few trusted beta readers to go over it and suggest what scenes they feel are unnecessary. You don't have to take their advice but it might be helpful.
     
  5. Sentient94
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    Sentient94 New Member

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    I read that 80,000 - 90,000 is the ideal for a sci-fi, but who cares about word count? (Well publishers do I suppose)

    Don't slash scenes for the sake of word count, slash them because they're filler or unnecessary. Once you take a read through, you'll probably see there's a lot of words that don't need to be there and paragraphs that can be moulded together to create something with more clarity than before, and your word count will be reduced naturally.
     
  6. Alex R. Encomienda
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    Alex R. Encomienda Active Member

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    What about for a fantasy debut? Mine is at 100,000 words.
     
  7. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    It's not too long, as an absolute number of words. Whether it is too long in the case of your particular book depends on the book. Is there extraneous material in it?
     
  8. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Length of 115,000 is not too long.
    On the other hand, if there are words that could be trimmed which would improve the overall story and reader experience, then not a problem.
     
  9. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    So the ballpark people usually give for a debut SciFi is going to be in the 90,000 range - with 100,000 not out of the question - and if you're doing an epic you might get a look if you're under 120,000. You're shooting a little high based on that standard (your choice as to whether to accept said standard), but not too much . If you think you have space to cut and tighten, then by all means do so, but you're not ENTIRELY out of the ballpark.

    Here's the thing I noticed though - you're describing your stuff as "SciFi Thriller" - which puts you in a weird position vis-a-vis word count standards.

    The "keep it under 100,ooo but don't be too careful" standard generally applies to your mainstream SFF stuff. Your Hard SF, Epic Fantasy, etc. That stuff depends on deep worldbuilding and has a word count that's easier to fudge.

    Thrillers, on the other hand, are a different ball of wax. The word-counts you hear cited for non-sci-fi thrillers are sometimes down to 70,000 and definitely under 80,000 from what I've heard (granted I'm shooting off from memory here so feel free to correct me.) Those are tight, tense, and often very short books that are designed to pack as much heart-pounding punch as possible. They tend to go light on description and heavy on action because your readers there are looking for a white-knuckle, page-turning ride - the last thing they want is to sail away on a leisurely worldbuilding cruise.

    So, when you start talking about SciFi Thrillers, you reset a lot of people's ideas of what type of book they're dealing with. A 100,000 word SciFi is not that big of a deal, but a 100,000 word Thriller is way off what people look for.

    My advice would be to really think about what subgenre you're writing in, and what expectations you want to put on yourself when you pitch this. If you want a 100,000 word SciFi novel, then just drop the "Thriller" and pitch it as straight SciFi (or maybe Military SF depending on your setting, level of action, weapons detail, etc - or Space Opera if you're more on the adventure side of things.) Also, Thrillers tend to have a formula to them, so if you have a ton of action but you're not writing to a genre-Thriller standard, then you're probably best off not calling it Thriller.
     
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2016
  10. mrieder79
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    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    Ha! That's funny that you posted this about the sub-genre because it has recently become clear to me that this is just straight sci-fi and not really a thriller. I'm making that correction among others in my next volley of queries. I also have some radical cuts which should get it down to 100 to 105k, hopefully.
     
  11. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, happy to help with what you're already thinking. :)

    I personally would think about whether you fit into a specific niche under SciFi, if for no other reason than it hones your pitch to a finer point if you can say that it's Military SF, or Space Opera, or Cyberpunk, or whatever. Also some agents like "comp titles" - comparisons to books in print that you think yours might have some similarities to - so if you have those, they can help if you use them right (I can't FIND any good comp titles other than "It's like an Aaron Sorkin TV drama, but in the future" - had an agent rip me up for that one in an in-person pitch - "comp titles need to be books not TV shows, where do I shelve this?". But the other agent I pitched at the same conference got really excited so I guess whatever works.)
     
  12. mrieder79
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    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    It is difficult for me to categorize the book. Most subgenres of Sci Fi seem to focus on advancing technology as the basis for categorization. My book does not focus so much on human technology as the unusual creatures they find in the sea. Near-future Science Fiction seems to be the most applicable subgenre at this point. Thanks for the advice. Any bit helps.
     
  13. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Near Future might work - pretty broad catch-all term (which I use for my own stuff - which coincidentally also suffers from the "Is this really sci-fi because it's not about tech" problem, although in different ways)

    I'll throw out some other random labels you might consider - or at least consider looking into. These are more thought bubbles than actual ideas, so don't take these as "I think you should do X" - just questions that might be worth asking.

    The first would be "Weird Fiction" - or more specifically the more current "New Weird". The Weird label is usually applied to people like HP Lovecraft (who obviously has some tangential similarities to your description). And the modern "New Weird" gets applied to people like China Mieville (not quite like your stuff) but I've heard it applied to Jeff VanderMeer (maybe some similarities). Those people tend to blend elements of SciFi, Fantasy, and Supernatural Horror (which it doesn't sound exactly like what you're doing but might be worth looking at).

    Which brings me to my other question, which is how much scary suspense do your have with these scary sea creatures? You originally described it as Thriller which makes me think you might have a lot of suspense and things that go bump in the night. And in that case, have you considered whether you're actually writing a Sci-Fi Horror novel? You have some obvious parallels to Lovecraft, and you might also have some parallels to the movie Alien - which is generally considered to be Sci-Fi Horror.

    Oh, and for what it's worth, you're in good company in writing about sea creatures. One of the forerunners of modern Sci-Fi, Karel ńĆapek (who we mostly remember for coining the term "Robot"), wrote a very influential book called War With the Newts, which also deals with humanity's discovery of intelligent marine life.
     
  14. mrieder79
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    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    My book is based on the idea that while drilling for oil, the survey ship opens an undersea cavern which is an ancient ecosystem filed with--you guessed it--scary critters. Pretty much the whole book is based on finding the survey ship (which sunk) and discovering these creatures that are now loose in the open ocean. They basically have to get away with their life.

    I suppose it could be classified as sci-fi horror as a fair number of people are killed horribly by the creatures.

    This. This is the type of book I like to read and the type I want to write. My favorite books blend these elements in a modern setting.
     
  15. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    @mrieder79 if I were you I'd pitch it as sci-fi, no sub-genre, and use your comp titles (which I know you already have). They'll be way more powerful than you assigning a sub-genre that some agents might not agree with.
     
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  16. mrieder79
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    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    I agree. I'm currently planning on pitching it as basic sci-fi.

    Unfortunately I've dropped my comp titles. THE ICE LIMIT really isn't much like my book after I think about it. The book is about 10-15 years old as well and I've read that comp titles should not be more than 2 years old.

    Of course, who knows what will really catch an agent's eye.
     
  17. mrieder79
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    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    I'm gonna try to cut it down to 100k. This is gonna be soooo painful.
     
  18. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    This^^^

    Your comp titles are going to be the big thing. Although given your premise I might think you could potentially ask yourself whether this might be Horror tinged with SciFi rather than the other way around. But that's really your call as you're the one who knows the work. I'm just thinking that if you're looking at something sufficiently scary, you might get some bites in that genre if you have trouble pitching it as SciFi.
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2016
  19. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    I was doing some research the other day into lengths for science fiction novels. After consulting five articles posted on five different web sites within the last 15 months, here are the results I found:
    • minimum length: 90k to 100k
    • maximum length: 115k to 125k
    As for the thriller part, I couldn't say. My sub-genre is humour (for which I could find no numbers at all).

    And for comparison, non-science fiction/fantasy novels are generally shorter, but I didn't record the numbers since I never go there.
     
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  20. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I think there's a Clive Cussler book with a similar plot. Do you know of it? If not I'll do some digging.

    I might be wrong but I have a strong hunch it was Clive Cussler...
     
  21. mrieder79
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    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    I haven't read a clive cussler with a plot like that, no. Thanks for the suggestion, I'll look for it.
     

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