1. medioxcore
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    medioxcore Member

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    Word limit on a first novel?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by medioxcore, Apr 14, 2009.

    So, i have absolutely no training in the art of writing a book; yet, recently decided i should write one.

    that is why i am here :)

    anyway-

    one of the first things i read here was a critique of someone's query letter (?). in his letter, he said that his book had liiiike.. 145,000 words. a few posts later, somebody said that 145,000 was waaaaay too many for a first time novelist, and in their re-worked query letter, substituted the 145,000 words with a paltry 9,000.

    is this really a more realistic number???

    i'm not quite finished with the first chapter of my book, and i already have 2500 words. i can see two chapters, for me, easily reaching over 9000 words. am i extremely longwinded? or does 9000 words seem like more of a short story than a novel?

    is there a golden number that i'm going to end up ignoring?
     
  2. Aeroflot
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    Aeroflot Senior Member

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    Novels start normally at around 45,000 to 50,000 words. 9,000 is not even a novelette. I'd probably say 50,000 to 80,000 is a good range. 50,000, using Times New Roman font, is about 175 pages.

    But, it all depends on how good the novel is.
     
  3. medioxcore
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    medioxcore Member

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    that sounds so much better. haha. thank you.
     
  4. crimsonrose
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    crimsonrose Senior Member

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    I saw that the word count for Twilight (don't shoot me. it's a well known book by now to everyone, whether we like it or not, so its a good reference) was around 120k, and that book is pretty dang big for a first novel.

    So far, my rough draft is 60k, and i still have a few chapters to go, not counter the 20k or so in extra scenes and descriptions that i will be adding in my final drafts. The story will probably end up at around 90k or more.

    I think anywhere from 70-100k is a good length. If the story line is deep, you've gone and made up your own world outside of earth, ect, it's be hard to fit the story into any lesser a word count.

    As long as you don't dip below 50k, you're safe.

    Because I made up my own world and the story is fairly complicated, I can't afford to go too short. But you may be different. Just write till those characters won't let you write no more! ;)
     
  5. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    No such thing as a length limit. A piece can be as long or as short as you want. For a novel the typical accepted length is 50,000 and up, though most novels don't go past 250,000.

    I suggest for a first time story, just write the story and forget length. It'll be however long it needs to be to tell its tale. Worry about trying to coordinate story length once you've gotten a good feel for pacing and plot progression. It's like learning to draw. You can't do big pieces until you have a good feel for dimensions and proportions. Start small and work your way up and you'll eventually get a good feel for how to get all elements of a piece, length, pacing, etc within a range that suits your purposes.

    If you want to know about length for novels, Orson Scott Card suggests most novelists should aim for stories around 100,000 words which I agree with. Anything too much longer than that and I think you're getting into territory where you risk the story becoming tedious. I tend to break the story at about 100,000 and then if I have more to tell, work a sequel.
     
  6. Brightsmiles
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    Brightsmiles Senior Member

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    myself, i feel comfortable setting it between 70,000-100,000. i'd rather offer up a second book than risk ppl putting it aside thinking its going to be too much work to read it all! but i definately agree with everyone else, it does have a lot to do with how deep your plots go, world creation, etc. i think each story should be judged on an individual basis.
     
  7. medioxcore
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    medioxcore Member

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    holy cow! twilight was a first novel???

    dang. beginner's luck, i guess. lol.

    this is exactly what i plan on doing, hence my "golden number i'm going to ignore" comment. lol

    i'm actually not sure why i wanted to know this. i'm not writing my book to make money. i don't really plan on writing multiple books, or even publishing one, so word count is not really something i'm worried about. i guess i'd just never really thought about it before, and the idea of a 9000 word novel seemed crazy to me.

    in any case, mine probably wont cross the 100,000 word mark. i wouldn't want it to. i'm pretty sure anything past that point, for what i'm doing, would just be superfluous.

    thanks again, guys. such quick and helpful responses here!
     
  8. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It really depends some on the genre:

    Romance and mainstream and mystery adult novels, 80,000 to 100,000.

    Science Fiction and Fantasy, possibly a little higher.

    YA 40,000 to 50,000.

    Of course that is just an estimate. Often publishers list what they're looking for.

    Terry
     
  9. crimsonrose
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    crimsonrose Senior Member

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    haha, yes it was. meyers story's biogrpahy is actually inspirational. she worked very hard at it, writing day and night till she was out of steam. i respect her for that, even if it disturbs me that her characters happen to shimmer.
     
  10. chandler245
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    chandler245 Banned

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    My first book for my series is going to be sitting at 130k so does that mean by what I am reading that it is too much? 60k is better and 90k is as far as you would want to go. That you only give you a, what, 145 page book. So what should you write? How many (k)? How many pages should it be at to get published and to get a lit agency?
     
  11. luke
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    luke Banned

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    Most stories are between around 250-800 though I would not go over 800
     
  12. RIPPA MATE
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    RIPPA MATE Contributing Member

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    Im going to back lord of hats on this one. Reread what he just said, now.
    thank you.
     
  13. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    250 pages or 250 words? If that's words were dealing with flash fiction. If you mean 250k, then darn what books have you been reading that are 800,000 words long XD? The Bible? (King James version actually is about 800,000 words) I can't imagine any human being could get an 800k word book published in the modern age of publishing. I don't even think the ancient epics are that long.
     
  14. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    9000 words is a strange length for publishing. Very few places will take something of that length unless it's aimed at kids somewhere between 6 and 12. Some people would call it a long short story, and other would call it a novelette or novella. But don't worry, they do exist. However, seeing as this is an estimate for your first draft, I'd say that in revisions, you have a good chance of cutting that number down, or finding a way to flesh it out to a less awkward length. Wait until you finish it before you start worrying about these things.
     
  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    My first book for my series is going to be sitting at 130k so does that mean by what I am reading that it is too much?

    ...yes... few publishers, if any, will look at a ms that long, from a new and unknown writer....

    60k is better and 90k is as far as you would want to go.

    ...better for what?... 60k is way too short for all but YA...

    That you only give you a, what, 145 page book. So what should you write? How many (k)? How many pages should it be at to get published and to get a lit agency?

    ...see terry's advice above... that's what the publishers want nowadays, from unknown writers with a first novel...
     
  16. David Forbes
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    My first novel was 160,000. The first draft of my second novel was 240,000 words -- the final published version was a slimmed down 160,000 words (and it was better for the trimming). My third novel is 140,000 words. I just finished a polish on a YA novel that is about 90,000 words, and my agent is reading a straight mainstream novel I wrote that is 72,000 words.

    It depends on the kind of book, though the publishing world is looking for shorter. Things like the cost of paper and how much it costs to ship bulkier books actually do play into the decisions of publishers. Unless you're a bestselling writer, a longer book will probably be cut down a bit.

    Terry was right about SF and F being longer. 150,000 to 200,000 words are not uncommon and with "epic" fantasies are sometimes even encouraged.

    Dave
     
  17. lynneandlynn
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    lynneandlynn Contributing Member

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    My first novel was a YA novel really and it was only 50,000 words. I'm working on a different novel right now and I've got a feeling it will turn into a trilogy.

    I'd say the 70k to 100k word range is a pretty good range to shoot for.

    ~Lynn
     
  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    for the adult market, 70k will be too short for many publishers, as the majority specify 80-100 for first novels by new writers...so i'd strongly suggest aiming for at least 80k when it's polished and ready to submit...

    keep in mind that first drafts often are too wordy and need paring down to essentials and that it's easier to take words out, than to pad a too-short work...
     
  19. DvnMrtn
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    DvnMrtn Contributing Member

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    9,000 is too small and 145,000 is too large. I asked myself this question a few months ago and went to the Gutenberg Project --an online source of classic e-books-- to investigate.

    I think Mary Shelly's Frankenstein is 60,000 words and a lot of other works were around the same. I'd say anywhere from ~40,000 - 80,000 would be fine.

    Remember though - Quality before Quantity
     
  20. fantasy girl
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    fantasy girl Contributing Member

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    i personally dont write novels but i suppose you just write till you cant write any more, just dont make it to long or people will get tired of it and will put it down. if you have more to write, leave it on a cliff hanger and write a sequal
     
  21. Dalouise
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    Dalouise Contributing Member

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    What about structure/story arc? Not to mention what the market is wanting, if you plan to get published... there is some good advice on here from people who have been successful.
    A good novel will keep the reader "into it" right to the end, a bad novel will have no readers at all! ;)
     
  22. Kursal
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    Kursal Senior Member

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    9,000? Are you sure he didn't mean 90,000?

    I tend to work to 100,000 words to begin with. I've been ghosting though and it's completely different to writing a novel really. The books are often cut down in the editing process. I am actually given a final word counts by the publishers, so have no problems like this.

    If you want to get published then it really does make a difference. 40,000 is too short unless you are writing kids books. Even the YA market tends to start at around 50,000. I suppose the best piece of advice I can give (to compliment the other advice on the thread) is; don't look at something like Harry Potter or Twilight or Hitch-Hikers Guide and think it's the norm. Stick to under 100,000 for a first time novelist approaching a publisher and be aware of your market and the rough word count that exists within it. There's no guarantee that doing this will get you published but showing the publisher you have some grasp of the market is a good thing.
     
  23. Kursal
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    Kursal Senior Member

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    I draw your attention to Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. It's a huge book for a first novel but at the same time captivating. If the story is there and the pace is right, people will read and enjoy it.
     
  24. David Forbes
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    There are always exceptions to the rule, but as a rule, very long first novels are harder to get published than shorter ones.

    Dave
     
  25. DvnMrtn
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    DvnMrtn Contributing Member

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    Everywhere else I've looked seems to agree with you, for example here's an article on the subject:

    http://crofsblogs.typepad.com/fiction/2004/12/how_many_pages_.html

    I'm just wondering, does anyone know why books like The Invisible Man or The Island of Dr Moreau by H.G. Wells are 48,000 and 43,000 words each. I didn't look at the others by him but I assume they're the same too.

    Assuming an average book has 250 words a page, 43,000 words is 172 pages.
    60,000 words is 240 pages.

    I can see how 40,000 would be too small for a novel but 50,000 - 60,000 should be just fine. I have a lot of novels that are around 240 pages or ~ 60k words
     

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