1. macleod0420
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    macleod0420 Member

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    Large first novel a problem?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by macleod0420, Jul 15, 2010.

    I have not really been writing since highschool but it had always been a passion of mine, and probably what I should have gone to school for in the first place. Now that I am stable in a pharmaceutical sales job with good hours I have gotten back into writing and am currently 120,000 words into a 200,000 or so word novel.

    I have been reading and hearing that having a larger first novel is more difficult to have published so my question is this. Am I just writing this book for practice now, with no chance of having it published regardless of how good it may be? I can understand that publishers may not want to take a chance on a larger book by an uknown author, but if I'm good enough is there still a chance that it will be picked up?

    Perhaps I should have thought more in depth on this possibility but I just thought that if the book was good enough it would be sold regardless of the length. Maybe I was being naive.
     
  2. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It depends somewhat on the genre and target market, but yes, having a 200,000 word novel is going to be very difficult to get represented by an agent or picked up by an editor.

    It is already difficult to sell a first novel, and having one that is twice as long as what is commonly accepted is only going to make the odds even longer. Some might argue impossible to sell it. I wouldn't say that, but you would be far better off, after finishing the first draft, going back and revising and cutting it down.

    Good luck.

    Terry
     
  3. macleod0420
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    macleod0420 Member

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    Thanks

    Thanks. I suppose I could cut it down and once I'm a famous fiction writer I can release the "Complete and Uncut" edition like Stephen King did with The Stand' right? A man can dream.

    One other question if you know the answer. The genre is Suspense Thriller, sort of a mix of Koontz and King. Does that make any difference?
     
  4. macleod0420
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    macleod0420 Member

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    I guess in addition what would be the recommended maximum length I should shoot for? I may, painfully, be able to trim it to 120,000 if I cut a bunch of the background stuff (man this will be tough), and cut some of what I have planned for the third part.
     
  5. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't write suspense/thriller (except some short fiction) so I don't really know for sure, but my experience reading it would say 200,000 would be a very tough sell. You might have a better shot with fantasy or SF for a long novel.

    In the end you'll have to do what is right for the story. Make it the best you can, including the shortest you reasonably can. Once it's finished, submit it. And while it's making the rounds, write something else, learning from the experience.

    Terry
     
  6. macleod0420
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    macleod0420 Member

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    Thanks a lot Terry, I really appreciate it.

    I honestly already have other plots ready to go once this one is finished and will be more aware of constraints for those. My problem is that I have always been a big picture thinker and that has translated to my writing and ideas.

    I will do my best to sell this book but your right I cannot ruin the story by cutting the legs from under it. I believe it will be good enough without doubt, and if it is not sold now but later that will be okay, the next one will be more designed timid publishers.

    As to fantasy writing, I have always loved fantasy. Tolkien, Robert Jordan, Terry Brooks, David Eddings, and Raymond Feist. I have read those and more and would love to write the genre just have been somewhat intimidated with the work involved in producing a world and politics that have never existed. Perhaps someday.
     
  7. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    A couple of points: Thomas Wolfe's Look Homeward, Angel started off as a HUGELY long piece, perhaps over two million words. He and his editor, Maxwell Perkins at Scribner's, did a ton of work to cut it down to publishable size, and even that was long. So it can be done if the book is good enough. But that, of course was back in the 1920s, and the market was, I guess, very different.

    One other thing that can be done, though, is that you could find sections or chapters of your novel that stand alone as pieces of writing reasonably well, and see if you can get them published in fiction magazines as short stories, or parts of a work in progress. The editors of "little" magazines and fiction reviews will probably be much more forgiving and accepting than a publishing house that can't afford to take a risk on a big book by a new author.
     
  8. macleod0420
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    macleod0420 Member

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    I really like your thinking Minstrel. You are absolutely right about possibly publishing sections of the whole story if the finished product ends up proving too large to sell. I had never thought of that, again my damned big picture thinking, but I like that for sure as a fall back. Thank you very much! Makes me feel a little better about all the damned workd I've put in, lol.
     
  9. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    No problem! And if you do get sections of it published, and they're well received, then publishers will probably be much more willing to publish the whole book.

    The critic and essayist Malcolm Cowley called this "beefing" a book. If nobody wants to buy your book, carve it into chunks and see if you can sell the chunks. It's like a butcher who can't sell a whole side of beef, but he can cut steaks off it and sell them, cut off a roast here and there, etc. and sell it in pieces. Just because you can't sell it as one piece (at first) doesn't mean that your writing is worthless or that you've wasted your time.

    :)
     
  10. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Keep in mind something. This maybe the first novel you write, but it doesn't have to be the first one you try and market. Finish up the novel and then work on something else. Something that can fit with in the 80k-120k word. You will have gained valuable experience with your first novel. So in a way it can be a practice one... for now.

    Once you do have a few published books you may want to revist this one. I would suggest cutting down on the word count. Take out whats not really needed and keep what is absolutely needed.

    But just keep in mind. You can always hold off selling it until a later time. :)
     
  11. eratos
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    eratos New Member

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    There is always a chance, there are just fewer willing to take it on.

    I went through this exact same dilemma a couple months back. My co-writer and I took 2 years and wrote a 3 book series... without doing research...the story demanded to be written so we wrote. We finished the edits of book one and it was 189k...the shortest of the series.

    I was then ready to find a publisher or agent and I discovered what you did...a lot of nay saying about the larger books. And so we made a decision... a business one.

    I want the best chance possible to sell this series as quickly as possible so we can afford to keep on writing. I spent the last 2 months cutting 72k words. That was a learning experience. Given our book is a hybrid and we were not sure if it should be classified as erotica or a thriller cutting 50k words was easy...the majority of the sex went. :D It was the 22k that hurt. Ha ha!

    We are taking the remaining two books and splitting them into three so there will not be the same drastic word murdering. :eek:
     
  12. lynca
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    lynca Member

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    Keep in mind that most most suspense/thriller novels of today are written with fast pacing and include little background and description. Little or no flashbacks. Surely you can find and cut excess words. We all use them for that first draft, but during edits, we cut back. Way back. That stagnant paragraph of overblown description can be edited down to maybe three sentences. That's where the actual craft of writing shows. Too many adjectives and adverbs? Use active verbs instead.

    Most agents, at least the ones I've heard speaking, almost shudder at the thought of representing novels over 120,000 words even with seasoned writers, so I doubt any would consider taking yours on unless it was truly exceptional. Do you really want to shoot yourself in the foot before you even begin your writing career?

    I'd suggest keeping the entire first draft in a different file, then begin work on the revisions with the goal of turning your pink elephant into a sizzling novel. In an interview, Mary Higgins Clark told about the time her editor strongly suggested she cut 40k words from one of her manuscripts, and highly protesting, she complied. Turns out it became one of her best sellers with reviewers praising the fast facing.

    If it hurts to "Kill your darlings," as S King once said, just picture yourself giving interviews about your debut novel's remarkable success. That should sooth the sting.
     
  13. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    I wouldn't advise trying to pitch a series. It's highly unlikely that an agent or publisher would be interested in a series from an unknown writer. Your first novel needs to be able to stand as a novel in its own right, complete and not dependent on a sequel for its completeness.
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    amen to that!
     
  15. Tom Gold
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    McCloud, An agent advised me recently to stay on or below the 100 k marker as this will greatly reduce the translation costs. They didnt offer to represent me in the end but it was still an intersting piece of advice.

    Apparantly Hemmingway said something about a writing a book having more to do with how much good stuff you could cut out than put in. Don't know the exact quote but things worked out OK for him in the end! T
     
  16. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think in the final editing you'll find you can lose up to 25% of the volume without cutting any of the content. I've been editing mine and painlessly dropped 2,000 words. The novel is only 70,000 words in total and needs to be tight.
     
  17. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Possibly more. Stephen King's more recent novels could probably lose 50% without losing any significant content, and that is presumably after having already been edited down.

    Nor is he the only one. Many big name writers seem to grow garrulous with age. Heinlein's last novels were a chore to wade through.
     
  18. eratos
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    eratos New Member

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    Agreed. I wrote a series and am now looking to sell book one but am presenting it as a complete story, able to stand alone. And if I don't get feedback from agents I'll leave out any mention of the series. There is only half a line mention in my query letter at this point.
     
  19. macleod0420
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    Since starting the thread I have been taking inventory in the back of my mind on what I would cut. I think I should be able to get it down under 120 for sure, possibly down to a hundred we'll see.
     
  20. LightningBug
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    LightningBug New Member

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    At this point, you should just be focused on finishing it. After the first couple of edits, you can start to see where you should be cutting stuff and how long it'll end up being. Until then, I wouldn't worry about the length. Just write.
     
  21. BlueWolf
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    BlueWolf Banned

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    Yup, 200,000 is waaaay too much.

    At 112,000, I was told a couple of times my novel was a bit long.
     
  22. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It all depends on the genre and the market--and of course the quality of the book. Fantasy & SF markets tend to average a little higher on the word count than some of the other genres, it seems.

    Taking a look at a some of the major SF/Fantasy US Markets:

    Ace/Roc state between 80,000 and 120,000 words.
    Baen requests between 100,000 - 130,000 words.
    DAW states "The average length of the novels we publish varies but is almost never less than 80,000 words."
    Tor no longer states it explicitly, but they were similar to the others a short while back.

    My novel Flank Hawk was around 128,000 words when submitted, and remained around that (give and take after editing).

    Still, 200,000 is way out of the mainstream, and would add (as I indicated in an earlier post) an additional hurdle to overcome in an already challenging and highly competitive process to find an agent/publisher.

    Remember, you're not only competing against all of the authors who are submitting to become a first-time published author, but also for available publishing slots against established authors.

    Terry
     
  23. sympathypains
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    sympathypains New Member

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    Hey, first post, have similar dilemma.

    Why can't you merely submit the first half?

    I mean cut the novel in two. 100k X 100K Turn all over the accepted limit, into a sequel?

    Would definitely be better commercially, why would write one book, when you can sell two at twice the price.

    I agree if there is 100k of superfluous fluff in the book, it can be edited down, but if one has multiple characters that require in depth introduction and development, one will need a much larger word count or suffer from lack of character development.

    If one is not aiming for pop lit, wouldn't this also be an alternative, or will publishers and agents see through such an obvious tactic?

    Hasn't the word count bar been raised now, that even kids books push 900 page limits, and do well commercially?
     
  24. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Because as an unknown writer, you can't. Publishers won't stick their necks out that far, it's just not a good bet for them to take.

    It's hard enough finding a publisher for your first standalone novel.
     
  25. sympathypains
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    sympathypains New Member

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    So basically your saying that, no new author could ever write an epic?

    They must first write something less substancial, and save their opus until after their more trivial offerings are published?
     

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