1. Morgan Stelbas
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    Morgan Stelbas Active Member

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    Is my story too long to be published?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Morgan Stelbas, Sep 15, 2016.

    Hi everyone,

    I'm sure this question must be answered somewhere but I have not been successful in finding it.

    A year ago, when I first joined this forum, I had finished writing a novel. It was not my first novel, but it was my first novel completed as an adult. After going through many threads here and reading many wonderful creations that others have posted here I have learned a great deal.

    After spending a few months on world building and character building, I felt I was ready to re-write the entire story. I don't mean that I went in and edited it (because I had done that already about 20 times). I mean I started a brand new word document and re-wrote it from scratch. Although the plot stayed the same, some parts were still included, while others were removed. Now it finally has much more depth and stronger emotion.

    My problem is this: my old version was about 98,000 words. The new version now has over 160,000 words. If I were to ever submit this to a publisher, it's sure to be rejected based purely on its length as I've never been published before. So should I scrap it and try writing it again to reduce the word count drastically? Should I just look at self-publishing?

    The genre is Young Adult Fiction.

    Any feedback or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. Safety Turtle
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    Safety Turtle Senior Member

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    I'm a complete noob when it comes to this sort of thing and don't know much about publishing...but...could you maybe make it into two books instead?
     
  3. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    From what I know, 160,000 words is far too long for a novel in the YA genre. You have to realize that your audience is young and the market reflects that.

    Sure, there are exceptions. There are YA novels published that have a word count as high as yours but those are the exceptions, not the rule.

    To give yourself the best possible chance to get an agent and a subsequent publisher, it is advised that you either split your book into two STAND ALONE novels. Or cut your word count drastically.
     
  4. Morgan Stelbas
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    Morgan Stelbas Active Member

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    I'm a noob too. I humbly admit that I know nothing about the writing world. All I know is that I've been writing stories since I was 7 and won a contest at school. I stopped writing in my adult years, letting life get in the way. But have always felt something missing from my life until I started writing again a year and a half ago.

    I've thought about your suggestion before posting this question. The issue with this is that I already have a sequel and possibly third novel lined up after this one. Plus, to cut this one in half pretty much ruins the plot, or leaves a cliff hanger that I feel would be more annoying than intriguing to the readers.
     
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  5. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    And that's the rub. A YA novel of 160,000 words is REALLY pushing the suggested limit for first-time authors. It comes down to a numbers game and your vision. I mean there's no harm in giving it a try. Just know that your chances are hurt badly by such a high word count.

    Do some research into the issue. Check out self-publishing, recently published works similar to yours, agent websites, etc. to get a feel for what you're up against.

    The way I see it (and this may not reflect your views and that's okay) is that I want to give myself the BEST possible chance, no matter what. If that means I would have to up-end the book I've written, I'd probably do it because being traditionally published is my ultimate goal. I wouldn't risk hurting my chances.

    Like I said, do some research and see what you find. I'm sure you'll figure it out. :D
     
  6. Morgan Stelbas
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    Morgan Stelbas Active Member

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    I am very much aware that it is way too long for this genre, which is why I posed the question. Having said that, there are many youths who love to read long books... we have the example of the Harry Potter books, especially the later ones. (The Order of the Phoenix is 257,000 words long. The Goblet of Fire is 190,000).

    I just posted the issues with making it two novels. I'm not opposed to the idea, but think that it would be better to reduce the word count. Either way, I'd have to do some major re-working on them.

    Does this mean that you are opposed to the idea of self-publishing a YA novel that is this long?
     
  7. Morgan Stelbas
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    Morgan Stelbas Active Member

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    I guess we were typing at the same time, lol! Thanks for your suggestions! I have tried to do research on this as well, but wanted to also read the opinions of fellow writers. :D
     
  8. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you're self-publishing it would be less of an issue - you'd be paying for editing yourself and there likely wouldn't be a print version eating up tons of paper, so two of the biggest objections to longer books would be removed.

    That said, YA can be a tricky category for self-publishing.
     
  9. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    Like I said there are exceptions to the rule and you can't count on being an exception. It's not in your favor, numbers wise to quote JK Rowling as examples.

    It's not unwise to self-publish if that's what you want to do. But I know next to nothing about YA markets in the self-publish sector.
     
  10. AASmith
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    AASmith Contributing Member

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    Yes but Philosophers Stone was less than 80k and Chamber of Secrets was not much longer. Even starting our JK had to lower her word count.
     
  11. Morgan Stelbas
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    Morgan Stelbas Active Member

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    It seems my hunch of having to re-work my story to reduce the word count is what I should do.

    Just to clarify, I wasn't at all comparing myself to JK Rowling. I am well aware that I am nowhere near any of the published authors out there in skill. But I continue to learn and hope that one day I will come close.

    I also realize that every publisher out there would think twice, or maybe not at all about risking a publication of such a high word count by a newbie. I know that JK herself had a lower word count as a newly published author, as have many others. I know all this. I only used the Harry Potter series as an example to show that those who read YA novels aren't opposed to reading long stories, should I go the self-published route.

    But then again, I do need to research more on the success of self-published YA novels, which will also aid in my decision-making process.

    I posted this question because I didn't want to go through all the work of reducing the word count if people out there felt that it would still be accepted as is, but I am definitely hearing a different response.

    Thank you everyone! I will work on word count reduction now, lol! See you in another six months! :dead: (Just kidding. I will be back to this forum often for hints and tips! I love this forum!) :bigtongue:
     
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  12. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    I, by no means meant to comment on your skill. Nor did I think you were comparing your writing to Rowling's. I just hear that defense too frequently. "JK Rowling did it". And to count on that is selling yourself short.

    Do you want to be traditionally published or are you strictly aiming for self-publishing?
     
  13. Morgan Stelbas
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    Morgan Stelbas Active Member

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    Thanks for clarifying that! I would hate for it to come across that I am that arrogant, lol!

    Honestly, I have always envisioned myself being published traditionally. I guess I always imagined that I would need the help of an editor to get my story to the level it needs to be. But in order for that to happen, there has to be a lot of potential in the manuscript itself and I'm still not sure I'm anywhere near that. I struggle with self-doubt holding me back, and at the same time, I want to someday at least put my story out there... when it's ready, within the acceptable word count and all.

    So, that vague sounding answer is my way of saying I don't know. Traditional publishing vs self-publishing? I really don't know. Self-publishing is still such a new thing to me. I've read countless articles and threads on it and am still not convinced I can go that route with the amount of knowledge you need just to know where to start. But, that being said, I'm not sure I will ever have the skills to even get my manuscript in the hands of any publisher and I often think that self-publishing will be the only way to get my story out there.... even if I don't gain a fortune from it.
     
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  14. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    It really all boils down to what you want. For me, I know that I want to be traditionally published. I view self-pub as a last resort (not everyone shares this opinion and that's totally valid too). So I think of traditional publishing as a numbers game. Especially if it's a first-time author.

    I would do EVERYTHING in my power to give the publishers exactly what they want (low risk, good story). That means that I'm willing to shorten my story if it ends up being double the suggested length for first timers. Also, if you want a professional edit, I suggest you seek that out before you query agents. Again this is a numbers thing. If an agent sees two manuscripts with great story potential but one of them needs some polishing (not professionally edited) and the other is sparkling (professionally edited) which do you think they would choose to represent?

    In summary, I think it's wise to research market standards for your genre and adhere to them as much as possible. What I am NOT advocating is to write something with only a publisher or agent in mind. Write the story you want to write, but keep those publishing niggles in the back of your mind.

    I hope this helps. :)
     
  15. Morgan Stelbas
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    Morgan Stelbas Active Member

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    You know what @Spencer1990 ? You make perfect sense! I completely agree with you. I think it's a good strategy and I'm going to do my best to go that route. Thanks for your help!
     
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  16. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    I take it this is fantasy, since you mention world building?

    You MIGHT have got away with 98,000 words, though that's still pushing it for a YA.

    160k isn't impossible but it's struck-by-lighting kind of territory for a new author. Like Spencer, I want to make my odds as good as possible so I write within 'safe' word counts.

    I wouldn't pay for editing though. Getting a proper edit for a novel-length work is very expensive; thousands of dollars for somebody who actually knows what they're doing. You can get cheaper ones who don't know what they're doing but... why would you?

    One of the reasons to go for traditional publishing is that the publisher takes on all the financial risk, including paying for editing.
     
  17. PapaSmurfberry
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    PapaSmurfberry Active Member

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    The average novel is 40,000 to 60,000 words so yours is a bit long.

    I have a tendency to be long winded also, on Drafts as a general rule I try to drop my word count by a minimal 10% optimally 33%.

    You might want to start with that goal with your next draft.

     
  18. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Average adult novel length is 80-90k, with a 'normal' range of 70-100k. 40-60k may be okay for middle grade (I'm not certain) but is too short for YA or adult fiction.
     
  19. PapaSmurfberry
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    PapaSmurfberry Active Member

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    "Young adult fiction: Although we covered this to some degree in our Publishing: Children’s Books Explained article, there is a little more to YA than meets the eye. This category has an ‘expected’ word count of around 50,000-80,000"
    manuscriptagency.com

    40k is the minimum to be considered a novel, so I put this as my bottom number though you are right it is a bit low. 60k would be the average length you would find many YA books fit in with a few around 80k. Those were just quick numbers I have found on Web searches. 70k-100k would be on the very high end even for Adult fiction as the cost of publication is so much when you get around 100k. A first time novelist would want to shoot for around 60k for commercial viability if the want a best chance at traditional publication.

    Stephen King's first Novel Carrie was only 60k words. Faulkner's As I lay dying, Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises and Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 were all in the 40k-60k word count. So I wouldn't be quick to label it as early middle school quality.

    I find at least on my own work. When you remove unnecessary adverbs and adjectives from around 100k words I write, I have in truth a solid 40k-60k of actual material. That's also why I aim for around that area. I seldom get there but with that goal I usually get 70k-80k as I think every one of my adverbs and adjectives are absolutely perfect and leave a great number more than I should. Lol

     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2016
  20. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Sorry to labour the point but 40k really isn't a novel in today's market except maybe (?) in middle grade. I don't know where you're searching (and I don't know who Manuscript Agency are) but this is a credible and accurate source, bearing in mind things have changed a little in the four years since it was published: http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/word-count-for-novels-and-childrens-books-the-definitive-post

    A 50k YA would be a pretty difficult sell. 60k you may get away with, but they're getting longer.

    70k is actually at the very low end of acceptable for adult. 100k is at the high end, but not the very high end.

    All the short novels you listed were published at least 40 years ago - things have changed. :)
     
  21. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Just to clarify, @Sack-a-Doo!'s figures are for YA, not adult.
     
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  22. PapaSmurfberry
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    PapaSmurfberry Active Member

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    No worries :)

    Granted yes they were published decades ago but they are all considered amongst the greatest novels ever written. A demonstration of quality over quantity in writing.

    If you were to write to the level even today, I doubt you would find problems being published based on word count.

    Stephen King's second novel Salem Lots was around 150k. Showing the other side of the argument. If it is quality it will get published regardless of word count. Peter Struab's Shadowland would be another example. As well as the greatest novel IMO ever written Kerouac's On the Road was 120k.

    I don't think we disagree as much as you think. 70k-80k is usually where you end up if you shoot for 40k-60k.

    I come up with 40k by definition of a novel any less would be a Novella. 40k is the minimum to be considered a novel.

     
  23. PapaSmurfberry
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    PapaSmurfberry Active Member

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    Those are the numbers I am finding also. Wikipedia and a few others go around this range.

     
  24. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    I don't think Carrie would be published today by an unknown author. Obviously we can't know, but things really have changed a lot.

    Under 40k is a novella, but I don't know of any publishers that would accept an adult novel of 41k. There may be some out there...?
     
  25. PapaSmurfberry
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    PapaSmurfberry Active Member

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    Carrie was a groundbreaking style of writing. The mixture of formats and method of story telling would get it published during any time.

    While the style may seem common to you now it is only because the impact it had on a generation of writers after it's publication.

    If it was not written, the style would still be visionary because you wouldn't have the countless books that emulate it and it would be published. Though I think we are now moving away from the OPS question now lol.

     

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