1. tcol4417
    Offline

    tcol4417 Member

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2009
    Messages:
    31
    Likes Received:
    16
    Location:
    Sydney, AU

    Well if this isn't annoying...

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by tcol4417, Sep 1, 2009.

    So from what I've gathered, average novel length for a new writer is roughly 50-75,000 words, 75k being the absolute maximum before you get ignored by publishers.

    That sounds fair enough - BUT

    I've hit the 10k mark and reading back over it, 10k goes by really fast (less than 4 chapters) - reading AND writing it. As much as %20 into the maximum story length and it hasn't even developed that much (I'm not one to fluff about on exposition either).

    Not really sure of what to ask for by way of responses, more venting than anything else.

    I guess it amounts to what do people think is reasonable as far as how long it takes to get into the story proper?
     
  2. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,352
    Likes Received:
    2,896
    Location:
    Boston
    I think the range for first time novels is something like 60-80k. That seems fair enough to me. That amounts to 250-300 pages which is probably close to the average size of a novel. I believe the word count is a little higher for fantasy, so part of it depends on genre as well. Also, I tend to cut things out when I revise, so that can reduce my story by as much as 10% in some instances.
     
  3. DragonGrim
    Offline

    DragonGrim Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2008
    Messages:
    818
    Likes Received:
    19
    Location:
    Iowa
    I’m one of the more rare cases. I add to my first writing. I have a story and just want to get it out. I don’t pay much attention to detail. When I read back through and start the rewrite, a see what needs expanded. Right now am at about 71,000 words. By the time I flesh it out it will be 80 to 90k. but it’s fantasy, so it should be alright for a first timer.
     
  4. Pallas
    Offline

    Pallas Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2009
    Messages:
    1,172
    Likes Received:
    36
    Location:
    New York
    I have a bit of OCD, so I am quite haunted to getting the details down and wording well enough before I keep on writing. I assume when I am done, I will have less to revise and edit, but that is yet to be seen. I'm at at 110K words thus far and hopefully I've be done by the 130K marker. It's an epic, and I suppose it would be classified as fantasy, no dragons, elves, nor orcs though. I so enjoyed the Greek classics, so it is somewhat along those veins.
     
  5. Rei
    Offline

    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2008
    Messages:
    7,869
    Likes Received:
    32
    Location:
    Kingston
    It depends on the publisher and the age group you hope to publish it for. For most publishers, they would actually expect between 80-100k words. Occassionally you can get away with more or less, but this is the standard.
     
  6. CharlieVer
    Offline

    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2009
    Messages:
    0
    Likes Received:
    27
    Location:
    Raritan, NJ
    50-75K sounded short, so I googled the question...

    According to this site:

    http://www.fictionfactor.com/articles/wordcount.html

    Short Story

    1,000 - 7,500 words

    The 'regular' short story, usually found in periodicals or anthology collections. Most 'genre' zines will features works at this length.

    Novellette

    7,500 - 20,000 words

    Often a novellette-length work is difficult to sell to a publisher. It is considered too long for most publishers to insert comfortably into a magazine, yet too short for a novel. Generally, authors will piece together three or four novellette-length works into a compilation novel.

    Novella

    20,000 - 50,000 words

    Although most print publishers will balk at printing a novel this short, this is almost perfect for the electronic publishing market length. The online audience doesn't always have the time or the patience to sit through a 100,000 word novel. Alternatively, this is an acceptable length for a short work of non-fiction.

    Novel

    50,000 -110,000

    Most print publishers prefer a minimum word count of around 70,000 words for a first novel, and some even hesitate for any work shorter than 80,000. Yet any piece of fiction climbing over the 110,000 word mark also tends to give editors some pause. They need to be sure they can produce a product that won't over-extend their budget, but still be enticing enough to readers to be saleable. Imagine paying good money for a book less than a quarter-inch thick?

    Epics and Sequels

    Over 110,000 words

    If your story extends too far over the 110,000 mark, perhaps consider where you could either condense the story to only include relevant details, or lengthen it to span out into a sequel, or perhaps even a trilogy. (Unless, of course, you're Stephen King - then it doesn't matter what length your manuscript is - a publisher is a little more lenient with an established author who has a well-established readership)

    Page Counts

    In most cases, industry standard preferred length is 250 words per page... so a 400 page novel would be at about 100,000 words. If you want to see what size book is selling in your genre, take a look on the shelves. If the average length is 300 pages, you're looking at a 75,000 word manuscript (approximately)

    One reason it's harder for a new author to sell a 140,000 word manuscript is the size of the book. A 500+ page book is going to take up the space of almost two, 300 page books on the shelves. It's also going to cost more for the publishers to produce, so unless the author is well known, the book stores aren't going to stock that many copies of the 'door-stopper' novel as compared to the thinner novel.

    Remember, these word- and page-counts are only estimated guides. Use your own common sense, and, where possible, check the guidelines of the publication you intend to submit your work to. Most publishers accepting shorter works will post their maximum preferred lengths, and novels are generally considered on the strength of the story itself, not on how many words you have squeezed into each chapter.
     
  7. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    only if it's for the YA market... for the adult market, the most preferred/required range for a new writer/first novel is 80-100k...
     
  8. architectus
    Offline

    architectus Banned

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2008
    Messages:
    1,796
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Ca
    As a general rule, by 10 percent of your story, you should have introduced your MC(s) daily life and presented her with a new opportunity. She will deal with this new opportunity until about the 25 percent mark, where things will go wrong and she must make a new plan, or she complete changes plans. This is where you reveal the goal that will drive her to the end of the novel. At the end she will either obtain this goal or not.

    So if you are writing a 100k story, the 10% mark is at 10k. Have you introduced your MC(s) daily life and given her/him a new opportunity?
     
  9. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,352
    Likes Received:
    2,896
    Location:
    Boston
    Where did you get these figures from? They seem fairly arbitrary to me.
     
  10. arron89
    Offline

    arron89 Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2008
    Messages:
    2,460
    Likes Received:
    91
    Location:
    Auckland
    I really don't think these arbitrary guidelines are helpful...I mean take a look at yur bookcase, how many really follow that formula? I can't think of more than two, and the "daily life" section is much smaller than 10%. As for the new opportunity, that's a pretty specific way of introducing conflict....there are thousands of other things you could do, and there's no reason yu couldn't do them at 2%, or 40%, unless you're talking about a specific genre that enforces those kinds of rules.
    To the OP, I wouldn't stress about word count on your first draft. This version of your story is unlikely to resemble your final copy, by which time you will have scrapped a lot ofunnecessary stuff and rewritten what you d haveinto a more concise, readable and stylish piece of prose. Just write the story as you planned it, you'll be fine.
     
  11. architectus
    Offline

    architectus Banned

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2008
    Messages:
    1,796
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Ca
    Aaron most every best selling novel follows them. Every best selling movie as well.

    It wasn't like someone one day just made up the percent guidelines. They discovered them in great stories going way back.

    People might wonder why a certain novel felt sluggish in the beginning. It probably took to long to introduce a change in situation, a new oppotunity.

    The Matrix:

    At about the 10 minute mark Neo is presented with a new opportunity to find out what the Matrix is. We also learn one of his goals. To find out who Morpheus and the Matrix are. At about the 25% mark (almost on the button) Neo is transported to a new world, the real world. At the 50% there is a clear statement that he can't go back now. This happens during a talk with Morpheus. He pretty much flat out says that you can't go back now. At the 75% mark all hope seems lost. Hell, he's not "The One." Now he tries even harder and around the 90% mark (you want to push this closest to the end as possible) he wins.
     
  12. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,352
    Likes Received:
    2,896
    Location:
    Boston
    I don't think guidelines like those help much. In fact, they seem restrictive. As a writer, I want the freedom to introduce characters and conflict whenever I see fit. All stories are different, so no one guideline is going to work for all novels and stories.
     
  13. arron89
    Offline

    arron89 Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2008
    Messages:
    2,460
    Likes Received:
    91
    Location:
    Auckland
    In Middlesex (A best-selling, Pulitzer Prize winning novel), the character is introduced, and at about 2% we begin the narrator's grandparents story and from there it moves through the family's history slowly and steadily until it eventually reaches a sort-of climax in the last 5%. This structure is completely different to the play Waiting for Godot (Beckett's most successful (arguably) play), where the first act involves two people meeting a third person, having a conversation then parting ways, and the second act repeats this structure almost exactly. In The Road, the on-going struggle of the main characters begins on page 1 and continues with little over-arching development until the very end.

    It may happen that most stories do follow a structure similar to the one you describe, but clearly, if you have found them at different times, and presumably different cultures, this structure is arrived at independently and done in the best interest of the story, not because someone told them this has to happen on this page, this has to happen this percentage into the story. And it certainly doesn't even come close to holding true for all, or maybe even most, works, so passing it off as an absolute guideline doesn't seem helpful to anyone.
     
  14. architectus
    Offline

    architectus Banned

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2008
    Messages:
    1,796
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Ca
    In Middlesex, what happens at around the 10% mark? In that novel, that would be around page 54. So far you've said it dealt with character building, which is part of what you do in the first 10%. At aroun 10% there is usually some change, a new oppotunity.
     
  15. tcol4417
    Offline

    tcol4417 Member

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2009
    Messages:
    31
    Likes Received:
    16
    Location:
    Sydney, AU
    I think Arron's point is that not every work in every medium follows the same formula, and they don't. I mean, what about movies that aren't based soley around the central conflict (Tarantino does most of his development mid or even late-movie)

    It's nice to hear from people with differing opinions regarding structure and size - that kind of instability puts me at ease a bit because it reminds me that I shouldn't be overly concerned with how I'm going just yet.
     
  16. architectus
    Offline

    architectus Banned

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2008
    Messages:
    1,796
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Ca
    Taratino is my favorite screenwriter. Keep in mind that there is always room for character development. It is something you do throughout a story. Now let's look at Pulp Fiction.

    This is a slightly longer movie, so the 10% mark is about 14 minutes of story time, so not including the credits. For the first 10% we are introduced to the two MCs daily lives. They are driving to a job talking about Europe. They ruff some guys up. This is their exciting daily lives. Now at almost exactly the 10% mark the movie totally changes situations to Vincent Vega and Marsellus Wallice's wife. If this movie had been kept in the original order, Vincent would have been in the car when he accidentally shoots the black guy in the face. That would have been the new situation. They have to get the car cleaned. However, if that were the case it happens about 5-7 minutes past the 10% mark. I think Tarantino cleverly mixed this movies order up.

    Now the 25% mark. It comes a tad late because this is two stories in one. The boxer's story and the two MCs' story. Anyway the complete change happens when the girl snorts Heroin and Vincent has to help her. Monkey wrench. Things go horrible wrong.

    At the 50% mark Bruce Willis reaches the point of no return. He can't turn back now. He messed up the fight and killed the man.

    At the 75% mark all seems hopeless for Vincent when he blows the guys head off. But they try even harder and pull through.

    This is a strange example because it is two stories in one and it is out of order, but even so, it still pretty much follows the guidelines.

    Analyze From Dusk Till Dawn and other films by Tarantino. Even though he is daring, he pretty much follows the 10% new opportunity, 25% monkey wrench; something goes wrong, 50% point of no return, 75% all hope seems lots, and then toward the end the climax and aftermath.
     
  17. arron89
    Offline

    arron89 Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2008
    Messages:
    2,460
    Likes Received:
    91
    Location:
    Auckland
    I think you're seeing what you wat to see a little bit with the Pulp Fiction example,...I mean yes, those events do happen at those moments, but its ignoring all the other conflicts and resolutions that happen throughout the film. Also, those conflicts you mention don't contribute to an overarching development in the film...the storylines are self-contained for the most part and the film itself doesn't develop towards anything in particular, as your structure implies it does (and if it doesn't imply development then its completely meaningless, since the vast majority of stories have constant or continuing conflict running throughout).

    Anyway, I guess you won't be convinced, but it still just seems really arbitrary to say "at 10%, do this". Even if it does happen in a lot of fiction, it doesn't imply that it is a good general guideline. When you are writing a novel, you should be aware of what you want to write, how you want to develop the story, not how other writers have done it and not how readers want it to develop. If it sohappens, as it apparently often does, that about 10% of the way into your story (something that cannot and should not be measured by a word count) you introduce the main conflict, then fine. But it doesnt matter if it happens at 3% or 23.756%, as long as it works in your story.
     
  18. architectus
    Offline

    architectus Banned

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2008
    Messages:
    1,796
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Ca
    I am willing to bet that we can't find a best selling novel that takes so long to present a new opportunity for the MC(s), that is 23%.

    I'm only going through all this because the OP is concerned about the first 10%-20% of his story.

    How would a writer keep the reader's interest for so long without presenting a new opportunity for the MC? Imagine if Vincent and forgot his name, the black guy, kept driving for another 10 minutes before they show up at the house to rough up the guys, which happens at aout 10 minutes into the story. It better be a damn engaging conversation to keep my interest that long.

    I have a feeling the writer would make something happen. They would present the MC(s) with a new oppotunity. Perhaps they would have a traffic jam and now they need to get past it. Something would change.

    I haven't read Middlesex, but I bet something changes by page 54. Some new opportunity is presented.

    Aaron, how would you hold the reader's interest for 54 pages without offering a new opportunity to the MC(s)? I'm just curious how one would pull that off.
     
  19. Kirvee
    Offline

    Kirvee Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2009
    Messages:
    232
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Michigan
    Those guidelines sound a little unfair, personally. I think the only time when word count or page length matters is when it becomes a question of "Does this story need this-and-that?". After you've cut out stuff that the story probably didn't need in the first place, what you basically have left is the story as you intended to tell it with all its vitals. At that point, it is the length that it is and trying to change the length will inevitably do something to mess up the story.

    Unless your publisher is super strict on word/page count and doesn't look to see if the story is worth the length, then a long manuscript should be perfectly fine.

    I'm not sure just how many pages my demon story will end up being, but at the most I estimate 700 total. Give or take. But that's just an estimation since not all of it is planned on paper yet.
     
  20. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Life isn't always fair. If you want to get even a first look from a publisher, you have to do things their way.
     
  21. arron89
    Offline

    arron89 Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2008
    Messages:
    2,460
    Likes Received:
    91
    Location:
    Auckland
    I'm not saying I wouldn't do something, I'm saying I wouldn't go "Oh, I'm 20% in, better change something". I can see someone saying "Ok, I'm 500 words in, better introduce the main conflict" or "I'm going to introduce this character here" at 20,000 words, but only because the story demands it. What I can't imagine is someone saying "(Best-selling author X) always introduces a villain 25% of the way through, so I'm going to count the number of words and that's when I'm going to do it.
    I'm not entirely against the structure, although it is fairly limiting and general and I'm sceptical as to how much it wouldactually help a writer to follow it, what I'm against is the arbitrary goal points, the having things happen just because you're at 10% of your ideal word count or something. If you grab any two books right now, you'll find that what one writer does in 5000 words is not the same as what another one does.
     
  22. marina
    Offline

    marina Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2008
    Messages:
    1,280
    Likes Received:
    55
    Location:
    Seattle
    The OP really has 2 questions. I'll respond to the 2nd one--if 10k and not quite into the story yet is too long to take. I think it all depends. For instance, with Twilight (OK--here me out first! :p), so with Twilight, the main conflict with the evil vampires doesn't occur until a whole bunch of other stuff happened first. That first part, although it wasn't the main conflict, was filled with tension. Every chapter had tension and made you want to read the next chapter. It seems that bestsellers either start in media res, right in the thick of things, or the author builds to the main conflict with the front part of the book still being built on problems/tension, and other problems/tension.

    Hope that made sense! :)
     
  23. architectus
    Offline

    architectus Banned

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2008
    Messages:
    1,796
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Ca
    Marina just had to mention Twilight :p

    Honestly, though, I think it is a romance, and so the main conflict is will she get the guy. Even more specific, the conflict is can they be together. He is a vampire that wants to suck her dry, but he also loves her, and she him. This is their main struggle, trying to be together despite that it might end up with her death.

    So the whole story is designed to make it hard for them to be together. Once we see that Edward pretty much has control over his lust for Bella's blood, this bad vampire becomes a big part of the story. Now he is the main threat to keep them apart. Then Edward must face the most dangerous thing that made it difficult for them to be together. He must suck her blood.

    She introduces this new opportunity right away. Bella goes to a new school, and there she meets who we know will be her lover because this is a romance.

    Since the story is about Edward and Bella's relationship, the first opportunity will deal with their relationship. About 10 percent into the story (you can check) we have the lab scene, when Edward is suddenly nice to Bella.

    At the 25 percent mark, guess what happens? The monkey wrench is cast into their developing relationship. She pretty much finds out that Edward is a vampire.

    Don't tempt me to do this for the whole novel, :p

    P.S. I think because writers read a lot, this structure happens automatically, without them thinking about it. They mimic the structure without knowing they are doing so.
     
  24. tcol4417
    Offline

    tcol4417 Member

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2009
    Messages:
    31
    Likes Received:
    16
    Location:
    Sydney, AU
    I think we've got an evangelical structuralist here =P
     
  25. Kirvee
    Offline

    Kirvee Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2009
    Messages:
    232
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Michigan
    *groans*It's everywhere....

    Why, oh why, does Twilight have to be everwhere I lay my eyes upon?
     

Share This Page