1. GlitterRain7

    GlitterRain7 Galaxy Girl Contributor

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    Would an agent/publisher forgive this regarding word count?

    Discussion in 'Traditional Publishing' started by GlitterRain7, Apr 24, 2018.

    I think I might've finally figured out why I have such a problem with trying to lower the word count in my manuscript. It's because it takes place within a long period of time (2 1/2 years) with no real gap within that time frame. That's just how the book is set up, to take place over a long period of time like that. I think everything that's still in there has a place, honestly. I'm at 114k right now.
    I realize that this is my first novel and I should really try to get the thing under 100k, but the way this book is set up pretty much prevents me from doing that.
    So, would an agent/publisher look at how the book is set up and take that into consideration as to why the book is so long, or are they just going to say, "cut some more?"
     
  2. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Funky like your grandpa's drawers.... Staff Contributor

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    If you get that far, you've either been accepted by a publisher or gained representation by an agent... so that's a good problem.

    As for being flatly rejected based on word count alone? Probably not. It's not a hard or fast rule. And it's not like you're at 200k or anything, so I wouldn't worry. The genre expectations outweigh that whole first book thing, which I'm not even sure is a massive deal anymore.
     
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  3. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I don't know if the way a story is set up is a good reason for how long it is. A story should be as long or as short as it takes regardless of how you set it up. If you feel like you need all that's in there, don't make excuses for it. If it's a good story, it will be recognized. Good luck!
     
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  4. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    Genre? If you're writing fantasy, I think you're in an acceptable range for a first novel. Some go well beyond that. Of course, the better it is the more latitude you're likely to receive.
     
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  5. GlitterRain7

    GlitterRain7 Galaxy Girl Contributor

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    YA or adult fiction. I started questioning what it was after a thread I posted probably a month ago. I'm going to ask my betas what they think it would best fall under and go from there.
     
  6. izzybot

    izzybot (unspecified) Contributor

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    Not an expert, but yeah, genre definitely matters wrt word count -- I'm thinking your project is probably contemporary fiction, which I believe trends shorter than say fantasy. It's probably not a complete dealbreaker, but you want to give yourself the best possible shot, you know? My experience is with publishing short stories, but I think it carries over that they pretty much want to buy something 'as is' -- not have a bunch of issues to deal with afterwards -- so you want as few possible issues going into it. Structural changes seem like a big deal, and that's what 14k+ extra words would be -- that ain't line edits.

    (I really can't qualify with "I'm not an expert" here enough.)

    That said, I shy away from thinking, "Well, I can't change X, because that's the way I made it." You can change the way it's set up -- you have all the power here. If you can make a better novel by breaking it a little and reworking it, do that. Now, imo 'more salable' doesn't always mean 'better', but if your goal is to sell it, then ...
     
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  7. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    You're definitely on the high side for YA. For debut YA novels, I think you generally see closer to 80-90K.
     
  8. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    One method of cutting word count is sentence by sentence, word by word, not actually removing any events or scenes. I realize that it may seem impossible, but you could grab a few thousand words and see what you can bleed out of them.

    (I just tried this with one of my scenes, just for entertainment. I cut it from 627 words to 572 without losing a breath or a gesture. If I were willing to lose a few nuances, I suspect I could get it much shorter.)

    (Lost some nuances, got it down to 457--it's only three-quarters as long as it was when I started, and I don't believe I lost even one sentence--well, other than a couple of dialogue tags. All word and phrase cuts. I'm going to hang on to it to read in a week--I'm interested to know if my writing is better or worse when cut closer to the bone.)
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2018
  9. CoyoteKing

    CoyoteKing Good Boi Contributor

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    I'm kind of with Izzybot. You're writing the book. You choose how the book is.

    There might be other solutions to cut down on the word count. You could remove a subplot, remove a character, shorten the time frame, tighten the plot, ect.

    Agents and publishers only really have one concern. And that concern is: "Can I get this book published successfully?" If the book is too long for them, they're either going to reject it or ask you to cut down the word count.
     
  10. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    How old is your main character/s? What's the genre outside of the age group (fantasy, sci-fi, contemporary, etc)?

    Word count norms exist for a reason. If you go outside them, your manuscript has to offer something really excellent to make up for it. But the worst case scenario is you write something more marketable for your debut and then shop this around when you have some traction.
     
  11. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Yes. Culling excess words and sentences—rather than whole scenes and characters—is a method that has worked well for me.

    It's easier to do once you've gained distance on the writing, though. Wait till you kind of forget how you wrote it. The extra stuff jumps out at you then.

    I discovered that, in addition to overusing adjectives and adverbs, I bloated my writing by re-stating or overexpanding lots of what I wrote (in case my point wasn't clear the first time.) I've been teaching myself (I hope) to say it once, say it as well as I can, then move on. I was able to cull over a third of my MS, simply by dropping those extra words and cutting back on the restatements. (I also cut a few scenes, but added others ...so that didn't affect the word count as much as the simple culling of words did.)

    It also helps to pay attention to transitions between scenes. You need to make your scene change clear, of course, but you don't need to take a character through all the steps they needed to take in order to get there. Just drop them into the new scene if you can, and make it clear to the reader where they are and how much time has elapsed since the previous scene.

    You don't need to show your character putting on their boots, taking their keys, walking out of the house, locking the door behind them, opening the garage door, getting into the car, starting it up, backing out of the driveway, turning left and driving 5 blocks to the supermarket. Instead, just put them in the supermarket aisle ten minutes after they left the house—if what happens to them at the supermarket is important to the story. If it's not, you can simply skip all this stuff and have them unpacking their supermarket shopping at home, when their spouse bursts into the room with good (or bad) news.

    Developing an eye for this sort of thing usually does require achieving distance from the time you wrote your first draft, though. Don't be in too big a hurry.

    .............

    On another tack, I do fear that word count requirements can mean you won't even get looked at by an agent, if you exceed them. Query letters require word count, and one look at a word count of 140k words in a genre that wants 80 to 90, and you'll automatically be dumped before anybody actually reads your work. Okay, you MIGHT get lucky if your query letter promises a cracking great story. But it should do that anyway. I reckon if you're going for traditional publishing in a specific genre, and you're a first-time author, word count is something you'll need to adhere to.

    Your alternatives are: 1) cut the story to the required length, no matter what it takes, 2) self-publish the story as it is, or 3) save the longer story for later and write something else that is a more acceptable length—get THAT published, and then hope the publisher will take a longer book from you if your sales of the first book are good enough.
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2018
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  12. GlitterRain7

    GlitterRain7 Galaxy Girl Contributor

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    The MC is nearly 16 at the beginning of the book, and 18 when the book ends.
    ?
     
  13. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    It's very likely to be YA.

    YA or adult aren't really genres, though they're treated as such. A book is a YA fantasy or an adult fantasy, a YA sci-fi or an adult sci-fi, etc. Your book is probably YA but it's YA Something Else.
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2018
  14. NiallRoach

    NiallRoach Contributor Contributor

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    You're close enough to the normal word count that you're unlikely to be discarded out of hand, but you need to consider that your query will have to do some serious work. What agents are looking for in a synopsis is proof that you know how to structure a story; if you're over the normal word count, they're going to be even more sceptical. If you can prove, with your synopsis, that the story works at that length, then you should be home free.

    Of course, that's the hard part.
     
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  15. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I always wonder about classification based on the age of the characters rather than the age at who the book is aimed.

    postman pat is an adult... but the postman pats books are for children

    A child called it, is about a child, but its a book for adults

    ditto about a boy where one of the protagonists is about 12 - adult book

    ditto the curious incident of the dog in the night time - the protag and point of view character is 15 , but it's sold as a book for adults

    new boy by William Sutcliffe - protags are 16/17 book is for adults

    lots of other examples

    To my mind the classification should be based on who the book is intended for, not solely the age of the characters
     
  16. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    The age of the protagonist doesn’t determine that it is YA. The protagonist can be a child and the book still be adult fiction.

    Children’s books can also have adult protagonists.
     
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  17. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    Best me to it. Yes, this is correct. There was an article on this a while back, I think on Writer’s Digest, with an author writing about why her book with 11 and 12 year old protags was (and is sold as) adult fiction.
     
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  18. NiallRoach

    NiallRoach Contributor Contributor

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    Characters of any age can be sold as adult fiction, but only characters of certain ages can be sold as YA fiction. Why? Because teens who pick up a book written for them expect to relate to the challenges and emotions of the characters. The same can be said for MG books pretty much always being about kids of that age.
    You'd probably struggle to write a book for teens with an adult main character, especially a contemporary one. Teens don't tend to relate to tax returns and overdrafts.

    It's simplistic, but it's generally true.
     
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  19. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    It does. Since you mention Writers' Digest: http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/the-key-differences-between-middle-grade-vs-young-adult

    The article talks about books needing to fit the themes of those age groups, but his argument is that it won't sell, not that it will sell just fine but be classed as adult.

    He also touches on rare exceptions (though not ones where a book with a 14-year-old protagonist is an adult novel). Personally, I don't bank on my work being great enough to be an exception.
     
  20. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    No, it doesn’t. That’s but one factor. There is more to YA categorization than the age of the protagonist. The work should be targeted at the YA age range, that’s what is most important.
     
  21. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    The proof of the pudding's in the eating... submit a novel with a 14-year-old protagonist as an adult [genre] and see what kind of response you get.
     
  22. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/does-a-high-school-protagonist-mean-your-book-is-young-adult

    This list can be quibbled over and I don’t know all the works firsthand. Protagonist in Life of Pi is apparently 16, and it is apparently adult fiction, for example, but I haven’t read it. But here it is:
    https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/13167.Adult_Fiction_With_Child_Protagonist

    Jane Linskold, well-known in fantasy circles at least, talks about how her friend, a librarian who specializes in YA fiction, points out that for her, at least, age of character alone isn’t enough to call something YA. “For me, YA literature is distinguished by change, evolution, development, the search for identity, and/or the search for self.”

    https://www.tor.com/2008/11/03/ya-what-exactly-does-that-mean/

    Molly O’Neill, YA editor at HarperCollins has said the first thing you look at to determine YA is who the book is FOR. And if you think about it, that’s the only thing that makes sense. A book with a child as a main character could be totally inappropriate for kids.

    The definition of YA is kind of malleable depending on who you ask, but this makes the most sense. I think people conflate the idea that a YA story should have a YA protagonist with the misperception that a YA protagonist therefore means a YA novel.

    There’s debate over the above, but the other side of it doesn’t make much sense. People should think about why it is misperception the way it is. And what works that don’t conform to the misconception tell you, rather than just saying “of, those are exceptions,” which isn’t compelling and doesn’t tell you anything useful about how to define the category.
     
  23. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    I just cited, above, to an author of 11 and 12 year old characters submitted and sold as adult fiction. If you want to wave it away as an unimportant exception, that’s just lazy. YA is an age group, so it should be obvious that what identifies a book as YA is that it is targeted to that age group.
     
  24. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    But... they are exceptions. Fact isn't lazy.

    We can go back and forth for endless messages but in the end all you can do is try to submit a novel with a teenage protag as adult fiction and see what feedback you get.

    ...or count the percentage of novels published as 'adult' with YA protagonists, I guess. But I'm guessing nobody has time for either of those experiments.
     
  25. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    That - although even YA should have a YA protagonist isn't a hard and fast rule
     
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