1. The-Joker
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    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

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    What's in a number?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by The-Joker, Sep 18, 2008.

    I’ve never really thought about quantifying the length of a book according the number of words it contains but that’s the unit everybody seems to be using around here. I’ve written about 40 000 words so far on a pet project of mine, and that’s two chapters of a projected 28 chapter novel. Although it wasn’t my intention, this extrapolates into a rather lengthy read and more importantly write. But then I’m not sure just how lengthy that is(560 000 words, is that within the boundaries of normality?). Bearing in mind that I’m new at the writing game and therefore might suddenly and inexplicably just quit, should I revise the plot and try to shorten it, maybe figure out a way to split it( its fantasy), or should I labour on until the fulfilment of my original vision is reached.

    I guess what I’m asking is 560 000 words ambitious for a first timer? What it is the recommended length for a first novel? Oh and if somebody could cite a popular book that’s around 550 000 words so I know what I’m dealing with here.
     
  2. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    560,000 words?!

    Are you serious? That's much, much too long. I'm not sure of any books I can suggest that are that long. Maybe the whole of Lord of the Rings (all three parts, put together). But that's an astronomical amount. Most first novels are between 100,000 and 200,000 words, though it does depend on the genre.

    And if you have covered only two chapters, and 40,000 words, then I'd say your chapters are far too long. I generally have chapters between 2,000 and 3,000 words, which as I understand it is quite long. I'd urge you to have a look at your writing, and check it isn't too long winded.
     
  3. TheAdlerian
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    TheAdlerian Senior Member

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    Just for the heck of it, I checked my work and I'm at 84K+ and on page 166 of 12 font single spaced document. It's a science fiction story and I'm just getting into it.

    How many pages would a 100K novel have?
     
  4. KP Williams
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    KP Williams Contributing Member

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    Um... Well, I know that page format and font size has a lot to do with the physical size of a book, but... You know how thick Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was? According to Google results, that book was 257,045 words long. Less than half of your projected word count.

    I would say that you definitely need to cut some content, phrase things more concisely, or split the story into multiple books. I don't know of anybody who would be willing to sit through/carry around a book that's twice as big as The Order of the Phoenix.
     
  5. Little Miss Edi
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    Little Miss Edi Contributing Member

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    I'd cut it back if you can. I had to proof a friend's finished novel and that was a slog at 191k.
    (not bad, slow to start but had me hooked by the end, in case you were wondering :D )

    Breaking it into seperate books might work (just make sure you go back and make each one a 'whole' rather then just sections of a whole)

    Quite an achievement though, 560k... that's huge.
    Bearing in mind that a novella is defined by a word count of (might have my facts squif here but) 80k words of less. Everything over that is a novel so you've got [calculates] 7 times Carrie in just two chapters... yeah, ... that's really quite long! :p
     
  6. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    The English translation of War and Peace is about 560,000 words just to give you an idea of length. This is in the 1200-1400 page range.
     
  7. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    THe longest book I know of in modern fiction is Stranger in a Strange Land and that tops out at just shy of 250,000. What you've got there is possibly three novels worth of writing!

    It at this point that most consider a trilogy :D. Unless you're really long winded in your writing, 560,000 words is too much for one book. If you are long winded, might want to work on that.
     
  8. Leaka
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    Leaka Creative Mettle

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    I have never actually counted my words.
    I usually count my pages.
    I usually try to make each chapter about five to six pages long, but there are those chapters that go on a little longer then that.
    I think I should start counting my words, shouldn't I?
     
  9. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Words is the usual way, because pages could mean A4, or novel sized. And font sizes differ too.

    And that about War and Peace proves my point. Who sits down and reads that, who doesn't have insomnia, or have to write an essay on it for university? It's far too long to be readable by the general consumer.
     
  10. The-Joker
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    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

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    And its book one of a trilogy. I guess that means I've got a nine part series to undertake now. lol, nah I think its better if I figure out a way to condense the plot somehow. I'm sure it wont take as long as it did to make the whole thing up.
     
  11. Ungood
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    Ungood Contributing Member

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    Just WRITE it...

    Better to write everything you planned to write then to try and shorten it before you are finished.

    The truth is there is always going to be some on the editing floor after everything is said and done anyway.

    So don't worry about it. Just write it!
     
  12. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    500,000+ words isn't necessarily too ambitious for a first timer. My first SERIAL was over 300,000 words, and the third in the series which I have going now is over 700,000.

    It's not too ambitous if you don't plan on publishing them as novels. Because published novels are much, much shorter.

    This is one of the reasons I don't seek publication. I find it sad that the more words a story has, the lousier many people assume it must be. Some stories just require more words to be told. They can always be presented in a different format from the traditional published novel--like the serial format I myself use. But if the traditional published novel is what you're seeking then yes, you definitely need to aim for something much lower.

    I keep seeing on another message board that around 100,000-150,000 words or so is normal for YA fantasy but I wouldn't know from experience. Supposedly fantasy stories are given more leeway in terms of word count.
     
  13. TheAdlerian
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    TheAdlerian Senior Member

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    I've always been curious about this issue, so thanks.
     
  14. BillyxRansom
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    BillyxRansom Active Member

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    That last part doesn't even sound very promising, because what is "leeway"? 200,000 words is standard? What if a fantasy story can't be told in 200,000 words? What if there are elements to it that require a longer story? I'm not attacking you, just the expectations of the industry.
     
  15. Speedy
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    Speedy Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thats not really true (well if your going to write a 28 chapter novel then yes(

    But to answer the original post - way to much for a first of novel. Though if your serious im sure theres a lot of material in there that can be dumped from editing and polishing...even then you'll probably have to find an end point in there and split the story into a few books.

    JMO
     
  16. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    I was speaking in context. I'll agree that if you are writing, say, a 5 chapter novel, then 20,000 words isn't really a problem.
     
  17. Kratos
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    Kratos Contributing Member

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    I'd say the average novel can be anywhere from 80,000-200,000, although there are exceptions. I'm at 35k words on my first novel, and I'm aiming for 80k-100k.
     
  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    while a novel can be any length, the current publishers' preference for first novels by unknown new writers is 80 - 100k... submit a ms that's either more or less than that and you minimize your book's chances to be published, when you should be maximizing 'em...
     
  19. Kratos
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    Kratos Contributing Member

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    That's what I meant. :cool:
     
  20. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    The average amount of words on a page in a printed novel is about 350 words. Therefore a novel with 100,000 words, works about to about 285 pages.
     
  21. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    560,000 words is huge. As a standard printed novel that would be 1600 pages long or so. Stephen King's the stand is about 1000 pages, and Swan's Song, which is a better novel in my opinion, I think was 700 or 900 pages. Both were too damn long in my opinion.

    600 pages (210,000 words) or less is what I prefer.

    Although Swan's Song was a great novel, it could have been better if it was 500 pages long. 300 pages is perfect though.

    Perhaps you should take that idea an build it into a trilogy instead.
     
  22. The-Joker
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    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hmm...All this time I've been thinking an average page contained 500 pages. It appears the trilogy route may be the most prudent one after all. The only problem is the plot has a definitive beginning and and a definitive end with no trace of any potential for conclusions in between. So to convert it into a trilogy or even 2 books would require a major reworking of the plot which is kinda like starting again.

    Right now I'm considering eliminating a few plot elements and splitting it into two. I just have one question. Just how bad are seriously open cliffhanger endings?
     
  23. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    I wouldn't say they're bad as such. It depends how they're written. And the resolution, in the successive part has to actually be decent, rather than just a huge anti-climax. But it's all in the writing.
     
  24. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    You could consider still writing this long novel, and making it as short as possible, but not to use it as your first novel you try to get published.
     
  25. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    How bad are cliffhangers? They aren't necessarily a bad thing. The thing is, (admittedly this is coming from minimal knowledge of the industry) if you intend to publish it, a solid conclusion is probably safer for a first novel. It's a safer investment. Why publish the first part in a book that can't work without the next part if you don't even know for sure that the first part will be successful enough to warrant a sequal?
     

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