1. Ollpheist
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    Ollpheist Member

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    Word Count

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Ollpheist, Aug 1, 2011.

    I am currently working on a hard science fiction apocalyptic novel which I'm trying to reign in at 81,000 words. Unfortunately, that doesn't leave me a whole lot of room to tell the story. The story I want to tell could comfortably fit into 108,000 words, but I'm told that publishers won't consider a piece that large from a first-time author.

    Are there any exceptions? How does one go about securing such an exception?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The general guideline is 80K to 120K for a first novel, with 80K to 100K the preferred range.

    There is some variation from one publisher to the next, but 100K is probably not going to be a problem.

    Is this your first draft? During revision, you can expect to drop 10-20%. New writers will be more likely to need to trim fat from the initial draft.
     
  3. Ollpheist
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    Ollpheist Member

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    I didn't realize I could expect to drop that much. I'm working on what I call my second draft, though it's really just taking what I got from my own little six-day NaNoWriMo prep (~48k words) and reworking it into a cohesive plot. So formally, this is my first draft that I'm working on.

    What I did was talk to a friend of mine who has published several books (and just sold to Harlequin for the second time). She gave me the same advice on word count that you provided, Cogito, and advised me to plot my book out based on that.

    I arrived at 81,000 words because my book is easily split into three "Acts" of about 27,000 words each. Each of those is split into three scenes of 9,000 words, and each scene is split into chapters of about 3,000 words (or roughly 12 manuscript pages).

    Every time I try to write a chapter and limit it to twelve pages or 3,000 words, though, I get about a third of the way through the chapter. :(
     
  4. The-Joker
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    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

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    You're killing your creative process with this rigid structure. The only limit to your story should be your imagination. This is especially true with a first draft.
     
  5. Ollpheist
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    Ollpheist Member

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    I do feel that it is limiting my creative process, but I am also concerned with writing something the size of Atlas Shrugged, only to never have it published.
     
  6. AJSmith
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    AJSmith Senior Member

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    I would try to ignore the rigid length structures for the first draft and just keep the overall word count guidelines on the mind. If you are only two thirds through the planned events for a chapter, write that last third how it should be written. You have several future drafts to cut the minutiae.

    I have read more than once, the suggestion that a writer try to turn off the internal editor for the first draft, and just let the story come out... I think that goes for the length monitor as well. :)

    I think it is going to depend heavily on what kind of first draft you write, also. My first draft was around 80K words, but there were several plot points that needed reworking, and some character role changes, so my second draft is going to end up around 100K words. I know though, that there will be a lot cut on my next draft through... so my meandering point is that it will probably change a lot before it's all said and done - giving you opportunities to rein in the length, so just enjoy getting that story out first. :)
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    definitely drop all those formulaic rules and limits and just write the story!

    when you get to the end, and finish the first round editing, you can decide if it needs to be pared down some more, or not...

    and don't go trying to make your scenes/chapters a uniform size, either... fiction is 'creative' writing, not 'mechanical'...
     
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