1. ps102

    ps102 Active Member

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    My books are too long

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by ps102, Jun 24, 2022.

    Hi...

    I don't know what it is about me, or what in my mind I'm subconsciously emulating, but my books are long. How long? Well, my first book, a Sci-Fi, is 350k words. That is really... really... really long for a newbie. I went and finished it anyway, because I do hold that story very dear to my heart. I have edited it extensively (8 drafts) and I do consider every word in it important, it's just a really long and really complicated story.

    It took me two years, and now, this style of writing seems to be etched deep in my mind. I'm in the middle of writing my second book and I ran a word-count analysis on it the other day. And what do you know? The length, and the words per chapter, match the exact pattern for my previous book. At this point, it's going to be 350k words as well. Ugh...

    There is actually a clear structure — which is why I can recognize it. My current book has three arcs, all of which focus on a specific set of characters and their conflict which is simultaneously used to develop my main character as she navigates these arcs, which slowly also solve her own conflict as the clues and information she gathers helps her to do so towards the end.

    The arcs are very clear, so much that they could be split into three different books (a trilogy!) very easily. But either way, I feel kind of stupid. As in, what am I doing making these long books...? Beyond practicing to become better, I don't think these will really lead me anywhere, even though I do genuinely like what I'm doing with them. I just feel that if I had written books at traditional length, I'd at least have some chance now or in the future to attract agents or publishers. With books this long, I don't think so.

    I'm kind of answering my own question, but what do you think? I think that my two books will just be for practice and for fun since I have noticed improvement in my skills so I definitely don't see them as a waste. But for my third one, which I already have an idea for, I'll try to keep it traditional length. I get people like J.K. Rowling overcame this kind of thing, but I'm not J.K. Rowling. I'm me.
     
  2. Set2Stun

    Set2Stun Senior Member

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    Yep, that's right. You only get to write the long ones once you've already been published. No agent or publisher with a rational mind is going to invest the time and resources on a 350K work by an unknown. For most genres, you want to aim at around a good 100K words. Less for YA, like 70K, and for fantasy and sci-fi you can probably get away with 120K, but I wouldn't push it.

    So realistically I would say your options are:
    • Write something at an appropriate length, get traditionally published (if you are so lucky), and go back to the long stories later on in your career.
    • Self-publish.
    • Try and find a way to break it up into a trilogy, ensuring that the first of the three works well as a standalone novel.
     
  3. evild4ve

    evild4ve Senior Member

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    People write at different speeds, but 350k in 2 years could easily be a rush-job. Seasoned paperback writers in some genres (including some users here on WF) can crank out publishable words at that kind of rate, but I'd venture that: they are using formulas they know will work; they are producing 4 short, tight stories not 1 epic; they are making money in the process and can focus on it.

    The OP has posted to the workshop, so I'll critique that with a view to how the writing style is contributing to long length. What's clear from this post though is that 3 arcs are being used to tell the MC's story. Maybe that represents a failure 5o tell the story in 1 arc. So the critical tool I'd reach for us the synopsis and the logline. I've found on WF that people approach these in widely different ways, so what I mean by longline is can the OP sum up the story in a single sentence, which must contain an irony. If for some reason we can't logline the story, it doesn't mean we've discovered some exceptional new form of the novel: it means we haven't written it very well. Re-writing the story to its logline is a technique I find useful.

    Over to the workshop...
     
  4. ps102

    ps102 Active Member

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    The first book (the 350k one) was mostly written by my experience and observations of the virtual world and computer addiction, it's very personal (not an autobiography by any means) , so I wouldn't publish it anyway even though I really like it. It was much easier to put down words because I knew from the beginning what I was aiming to do with it. I'm an IT student, so I type fast-ish at 80 words per minute, which isn't impressive but it was enough to chug one or two chapters a day. And since part of it was written at a gap year were I had much more time, I did *nothing* but write in my free time. The first few drafts definitely were a hot rushed mess, but I worked hard to fix that, and learned a lot along the way. I'm not saying I'm perfect, remember this was my first time exploring this craft, but I believe I improved. The only negative is that I adapted this really long writing style, which is what I tried to explain in the original post.

    Oh no... what I posted in the workshop was an experiment. But I already responded there, so no need to repeat things here.

    I will certainty try, though I don't know how long the sentence can be. Anyway, here I go:

    A lone girl dwelling in the walls of her room ends up tangled in the schemes of a secret society to stop the merging of the physical and virtual worlds, and through this adventure she deems as a self-defining one, she saves the world and learns much of her self and the reasons behind her impulses — only to then learn that her self-defining adventure was just another virtual figment — left to pick up the pieces and decide what was real and what wasn't.

    So... that was my attempt? It's a long single sentence technically... but I don't believe that I did it right because I used comas and dashes.

    I figured as such. I still like my books but I'll think of them as practice books. If, ever, somehow, I get published and earn enough reputation, I could explore the possibility of publishing these books then. Either way, I'll finish drafting the second book, and I won't edit it. I'll get straight into the third one which I'll make it traditional.

    Thanks so much for your responses. I'm very grateful.
     
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  5. evild4ve

    evild4ve Senior Member

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    Now, if you saw that at the top of the back of a book... what would you do?
    But, no, this is a courageous logline and one that I think gives the OP what they need.

    I'd suggest it might be useful to reductively edit it, since some of the information is internally-redundant, and some is tangential to the story:-

    A girl saves the world — only to learn that the world wasn't real.

    That may seem like a drastic reduction, but it (I suggest, I suggest) reveals a problem: the logline is paradoxical:-

    A girl did a thing - but she didn't.

    It would be tedious to go through clause by clause in the OP's logline to explain why each bit reduces out.
    But I will say it's not that being tangled in the schemes of a secret society isn't interesting and whatnot, it's that it doesn't contribute to the logline's irony. The only structural element featuring in both halves is the world.

    Returning to my earlier point, and perhaps more for others' benefit: the logline we put on the back of the book has a bit more flexibility to keep some adjectives and flavour in there. When it's being used as a structuralist critical tool, loglining is more minimalist.

    For example we could keep:-
    A lone girl saves the world from a secret society - only to learn that the world wasn't real.

    And still be able to pick out the underlying paradox. I suggest it's the paradox that's the problem: like the discontinuity in a mathematical graph it expands the word count to an infinite volume.

    Paradoxes are ironic, so a logline can form around them - but they're a type of irony that makes for unsatisfying storytelling.

    Bear in mind the draft text might be able to produce more than one logline. And some great novels have turgid, dreadful loglines - but as a tool it's done its job if it's told us something.

    The Coen Brothers film - 'The Man who Wasn't There' might be interesting as a counterexample.

    There was a man - no there wasn't!
    I'd suggest that one has another logline to do with sin and imputed guilt.
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2022
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  6. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    The two things that spring to mind are

    a) a rigorous structural edit may make the book significantly shorter (although my books tend to wind up longer after edits)

    b) you may find that it would break in three with minor amends giving you a series of 100k books
     
  7. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin I don't feel tardy.... Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, just break it up into three books and round out the first one so it can stand on its own as much as possible. Then you have three projects to pitch, self pub, or whatever. A no brainer in my opinion.
     
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  8. ps102

    ps102 Active Member

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    The story has three parts and two arcs in it's structure:
    • Discovering the conflict (the virtual and real worlds getting merged) and the secret society behind it after numerous incidents take place. This part in particular has a heavy mystery element to it as the characters unravel clues to get into the truth.

    • Getting involved after learning the truth and coming to a conclusion after overcoming various obstacles, which also develop the MC, and ends her adventure by finally resolving the conflict.

    • Then the third, which opens into a world where everything is the same on the surface, but displaced and disjointed on various places (for example, a character acts completely different and uncharacteristically). This part covers the 'real world', as the previous one was a figment made up of broken engrams a virtualiser consolidated on her hippocampus. It's the amnesic MC "picking up the pieces" and exploring how fake her adventure really was.
    The first part ends right as they fully discover the secret society and the truth. If I were to make that its own book, it'd feel more like a cliffhanger rather than a complete book. The two parts are better read together because they cover the same arc. But the third part is highly independent and covers a different arc, so it can easily be its own book.
    • 1st part: 98897 words
    • 2nd part: 156161 words
    • 3rd part: 103372 words
    So, even if I were to make two books by combing the first two parts into one, it'd still be two long. And the second book would be too small in comparison. Structurally, it can either work as one long book or a trilogy. But it being a trilogy has the aforementioned disadvantaged of a chopped up plot and inevitably a cliff hanger.

    Well, either way, this is no immediate problem. This was my first book and I don't plan on publishing it. I adore it very much as something personal, so I think that's okay. I'll just learn not to make this mistake again.

    So... let me see if I understand.

    You're saying that the log-line I wrote isn't necessarily uninteresting, but just overly long because it has much information which doesn't contribute to the paradox.

    In that sense, I should strip it down so it's not as long but still portrays the core paradox. A girl did something but she didn't is just your absolutely bare minimum example of that. I get it. I didn't really understand what exactly you wanted me to do but that clears it up.

    Therefore, I should find a better balance, like this: An isolated girl spending much of her days in the virtual world learns that it is slowly merging with the real one— and goes to save it— only to learn that there was never anything to save.

    I think... that's a bit better? It doesn't directly tell the paradox, but as you say, it underlines it. It still has irrelevant detail (no need to mention that the girl is isolated, or that she spends her time on the virtual world) but as far as I understood, that's not wrong, it's a guideline to help keep things short.

    Either way, the part about it not existing is supposed to be a twist, so I'd never put this in the back of a book :)
     
  9. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    if you don't care about publishing it and just wrote for yourself theres no problem with length
     
  10. evild4ve

    evild4ve Senior Member

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    I'm confused. Publication is usually what distinguishes a book from a story - but that might be a personal mindset.
    Surely the hope is that there's a novel in there somewhere. Or maybe 3. And the forum is here to help with that, at least I've seen it to be in the time I've been on it.
    However, there are probably two fearsome realisations to come. The 2k sample is enough for a good guess. Another 2k words from another chapter are unlikely to alter the critique.
    1. Most of the 350,000 words are redundant, or matter to the writer without being made to matter to the reader, or don't move the story forward - and should be cut
    2. Something in the writer caused point 1

    And this is universal to all of us. We either write too few words or too many. The OP knows it's the latter, so take a harsh view and I'd suggest to use tools that professors/professionals/authors you respect/just anyone else - have come up with for doing the reduction
    The OP likes every word where it is. Well that's all of us: but we're under stern instruction to "kill our darlings"

    The OP's next logline is already showing ways to start a reduction. I think it's still fatally-flawed but this can be done in multiple rounds.

    It's now:-
    An isolated girl spending much of her days in the virtual world learns that it is slowly merging with the real one— and goes to save it— only to learn that there was never anything to save.

    Where it was:-

    A lone girl dwelling in the walls of her room ends up tangled in the schemes of a secret society to stop the merging of the physical and virtual worlds, and through this adventure she deems as a self-defining one, she saves the world and learns much of her self and the reasons behind her impulses — only to then learn that her self-defining adventure was just another virtual figment — left to pick up the pieces and decide what was real and what wasn't.


    Therefore, the following elements can safely be cut from the work without impacting the story:-
    The walls. The room. The secret society. The self-defining. The adventure. The pieces. The figment.

    We're here looking for a new way to tell a Cartesian angst story. To be a novel, it can't have been done before.
    A story that springs to mind is Serial Experiments Lain (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_Experiments_Lain). The OP has an anime avatar so maybe they know it already!
     
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  11. ps102

    ps102 Active Member

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    I understand your point. Maybe I could restructure it and strip the plot down to tell the same thing. But the thing here is, like I have said, that the story is extremely personal to me. I don't want to change it solely for that, after all, it's my story. And if I strip it down, well, it won't be that anymore. Then the question inevitably comes: Why should I? I've moved on to my next project which has already demonstrated to me how writing that first project has helped me improve. I'm not saying I'm good but improvement is improvement.

    And you have to keep in mind here: Three years ago, I couldn't even form sentences (Comas everywhere!). But now I can, I passed my English exam, and got into reading and writing because of it. I joined these forums because I want to discuss writing with others and become better that way, I can critique others and learn, and I can also post my own work and have it torn down.

    So what I'm saying is... you're right. There might be an actual book in there. But there's no need. I can improve without editing something that is dear to me.

    It's been a while since I've watched anime, actually. But I think I heard of it a while back. I had a read from the article and I think I see why you posted it. A story that explores technological impact? Boy, that sounds familiar...

    Other things are on the horizon for this summer, but I'll keep it in mind for another time.
     

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