1. AndyC
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    AndyC Member

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    Story too long for a single book

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by AndyC, Apr 13, 2014.

    I was wondering the other day about this. Has anyone of you thought about a story that you wanted to develop, but was impossible to fit in a single book?
    Not that I have that trouble, I can't even finish my own story to actually think about that :p
    But I am curious about this. Would you just re-think it to make it fit on one book? Or you just keep working with it no matter how many books you need to make?
    There is also the problem with publishing, because I'm sure that publishing a novel that unwraps from start to finish on a single book is different than trying to publish another that takes several ones.
    I'm not taking about sequels here, I'm talking about the same story that seems impossible to fit on a single book.
    Has anyone encountered this trouble?
    Sorry if the question seems silly, but I was really curious about this.
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    My story is 2 novels long but there is a distinct divide in it. It really is two different stories connected in the middle.

    I don't think you should concern yourself until the book is closer to being finished. It certainly shouldn't stop you from writing it. When it comes to submitting to publishers, there might be issues.

    Were it me, I'd write the story and worry about length issues when I was finished.
     
  3. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Tried crunching up the manuscript into sellable size. A Very Bad Idea. Just ended up butchering the damn thing. Now it's neatly split in two and there's enough space for character and plot development. Mind you, a lot of the excesss has already been removed, hopefully all of it, but that's unlikely.

    It turned out it was a good idea to axe some subplots, and one character has a teeny tiny role in the first part while it used to be a lot bigger. Still, if not split in two, it would've been way too much for any sane publisher (content wise it probably still is... ).

    If you do arrive at a similar conundrum, my only advice is that be careful not to butcher the ms. It might not be worth it in the end, considering the chances of getting published are so miniscule anyway, so if it seems to have grown too big to fit into the industry standard pants, self-pubbing might be the best option. Sometimes splitting in two can also work, which I hope was the right decision with the ms I'm working on with @T.Trian (we write together).
     
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  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You basically have three choices:

    1. Simplify the story. Take out a subplot or few so the story fits in the word count range appropriate for your submission. You may think that if the story is good enough, the publisher will overlook the fact that the word count is outside of spec, but it just doesn't work that way for an unknown author. (If you were already an established author, you wouldn't have asked the question). Submissions editors have far too many submissions to give them all a good read, so submissions outside of the requested range are the first to be pared because it's the easiest criterion to thin the crowd.

    2. Save the story for when you're sufficiently well-known to not be subject to those restrictions. When you have a solid reputation with a publisher or agent, they may be willing to consider a piece they would never take a chance on for an unknown. The costs that go into a novel consist of fixed costs per volume and costa tthat are proportional to length, so the projected profit mus be higher for a longer work to be a good risk. Also, the retail price,which also increases with length, must not be high enough to turn away readers who are also unfamiliar with the author. Buyers pay more when they already know and like an author.

    3. Divide the story into two complete, fully stand alone novels, each of which falls within the acceptable word count. For this to work, each book must stand on its own merits - you may never get the chance to publish both anyway.

    Choice one is probably your best in any case. It's the way in which you will best learn how to adjust a story and its pacing to fit constraints. There are always constraints. That's a reality of any endeavor, and it's a sign of maturity to adapt to requirements without losing your cool.
     
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  5. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I had that problem when I first conceptualised the book I'm writing now. I knew I had to have stand alone books as an unknown writer, so I spent a long time trying to figure out what story I can tell considering the word limit (I aim for anywhere between 80-100k). After a lot of trials, tribulations and half way through another book, I came back to this one with a clearer idea. Basically, I am telling the story as stand alone. But I would love to create a world and write a few books within it, either a trilogy or a series. Depending on how it all goes after the first is written, the subsequent books will have all the various subplots, other character, more detailed insight into characters' lives etc. The first one will have only what it needs to tell that one story, nothing more.
     
  6. ChaosReigns
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    ChaosReigns Be Still and Know Contributor

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    write it, and let it tell itself. if it requires more than one book, as the one in my sig had to, finish it and write something else as a stand alone, possibly two. i have 2 possibly 3 ideas for stand alones, each of which has been started in some form or other, that i will go back to once i have finished this one.
     
  7. AndyC
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    AndyC Member

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    I was just curious about this, I'm still really far away in the writing process to actually be thinking about publishing :p But I really like the idea of having a really long and developed story that can take several books.
     
  8. JetBlackGT
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    JetBlackGT Contributing Member

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    My first book was part one of five. In other words, 500,000 plus words. My poor spacebar :-( That key takes a beating! Don't be afraid to break up the story (it'll even make you more money!) but it has to be done right. Better to have one longer book, that is perfect and complete, than two books that were simply divided at an awkward point.
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    long ago, extremely long novels were often published in more than one volume, but today too few would buy a multi-volume novel, so no paying publisher will take one on, unless the author was so famous even a collection of their grocery lists would make the NY times bestseller list...
     

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