Uh oh... What if my book is too long?? - Page 2


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Thread: Uh oh... What if my book is too long??

  1. #11
    I think I understand what is being said and what is necessary. I know my story, and I know exactly what needs to be in it, and I know it's part of the writing process to remove things that don't need to be in it. So, if it's still 200k after I get rid of anything that doesn't need to be there, then that's that.

    The bottom line is the story has to stay the way it is. There's no shortening the overall plot. I've revised this stupid thing so many times until I got every last bit of it feeling like "yes, this is really tight and excellent." It's taken fifteen years. If it needs to be a trilogy, then I'll find some good break points and sculpt them accordingly.

    I guess I'll have to consider getting some beta readers too.
    "We learn more by fixing mistakes than we ever would have if things had gone right in the first place."
    --Keith Bontrager

  2. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Eicca View Post
    I think I understand what is being said and what is necessary. I know my story, and I know exactly what needs to be in it, and I know it's part of the writing process to remove things that don't need to be in it. So, if it's still 200k after I get rid of anything that doesn't need to be there, then that's that.

    The bottom line is the story has to stay the way it is. There's no shortening the overall plot. I've revised this stupid thing so many times until I got every last bit of it feeling like "yes, this is really tight and excellent." It's taken fifteen years. If it needs to be a trilogy, then I'll find some good break points and sculpt them accordingly.

    I guess I'll have to consider getting some beta readers too.
    The truth, as usual, is most likely somewhere in the middle. So let's address the two main points (Most people on this thread + Ralph's)

    "200k is too long -- publishers won't consider it, especially not from a newbie"

    Why this is correct


    200,000 words is a hefty read and readers may or may not want to invest that much time in a book they aren't totally sure they will see a payoff for. Additionally, it is unquestionably true that most first time novels by run on the conventional word count. Stephen King's Carrie is really short compared to most of his books. Rowling's The Sorcerer's Stone is really short compared to the following books. This is not an accident.

    What it means is that a book that is essentially the length of 2-3 'standard' length books is not necessarily a deal-breaker, but it is a red flag -- the red flag being ''has this person actually edited or are they just waffling amok?". But DON'T take my/our word for it.
    Literary agents themselves (not all perhaps, but many -- and in my opinion enough of them) make this point often. Such as here

    Writers Digest run entire articles on the subject, with the caveat there are always exceptions. Here. These articles aren't being written for fun. They aren't being written for no reason.

    Why this is bullshit

    Mainly because it is an absolutism and, as an absolute statement, is empirically false. Some books do get picked up at that length from new writers. Some stories really do need 200,000 words or more to be told.

    The fact that most do not is an observation, it is not a rule.

    The assertion that a book is statistically more likely to be read if it is X, Y or Z isn't terribly relevant to this question: Every book is unique because every story is unique and there are no fixed rules as to what makes something publishable -- if only.

    "Don't listen because sometimes cutting out a chunk of content is really bad and also ebooks don't care and..."
    Why this is correct

    Cutting a lot of content for no other reason than to hit some arbitrarily-determined 'sweet spot' is plainly bad advice. I had this problem as well: Often I would go into editing convinced that the answer to every problem was to CUT, CUT, CUT. A lot of the time that is actually true, but it's only a part of the puzzle. And yes, with e-books there is less emphasis ('less' not meaning 'zero') on book length generally. And if you're self-publishing, obviously, you don't have to answer to anybody.

    Funnily enough: After cutting a bunch out in my rewrite, I actually am finding myself re-inserting bits from the original, mammoth version of my manuscript in the final draft, because I realized the story was empty without them. This is the magic of editing: It's not a one-way street. Sometimes you have to change your mind multiple times to find what works.

    Why this is bullshit

    Firstly and most obviously: Because print books are still a thing and there's the cost issue. But more than that, there's also the perception problem. It's not an accident that a lot of first time novels are mammoths. What happens is writers tend to fall in love with their work and its world and therefore create a lot of white noise that doesn't necessarily move the story. You end up with over-long descriptions, excessive dialogue, random subplots, and so on. Pretty soon, a fairly simple story gets blown up like a tumor.

    While sometimes tumors are benign, or not tumors at all but rather some impressive growth, I would say it is always foolish to assume that one can be an exception to traditional wisdom. Yes it's possible to get a really long book published. It's also possible to climb a mountain in a bathing suit. The question is: Are you really wanting to risk stacking the cards against yourself if it is avoidable?

    While a story being epic doesn't really matter if self-publishing, since the OP did not mention if they were publishing themselves or seeking an agent/publisher, advice regarding perceptions and adherence to convention/fulfilling expectation regarding word count (and everything else) hinges on that question. If the writer is trying to land an agent, they probably don't want to be disadvantaging their book in the eyes of industry professionals.

    HOW TO SOLVE:

    Beta readers. A beta reader is the only way to properly know if your story is too long or too short, too slow or just right, etc.

    Beyond that, you have to be REALLY honest with yourself. Ask yourself if EVERY scene you have actually MOVES the story. That has been my greatest lesson so far.

    By 'move the story' I mean specifically: Has a significant change been made at the end of the scene versus the beginning of it? Has the character changed, or learned something important? Have the circumstances changed significantly through the course of the scene, or is it pretty much just "Oh, that's interesting, guess I know a little more about how much he loves his mother...that's nice."

    If the answer is 'no' or 'not sure', that scene DOES NOT!!! belong there.
    Last edited by luckyscars; January 3rd, 2020 at 10:07 AM.

  3. #13
    Here's a little story on the subject:


    The first draft of my current WIP was beta read by a member of this forum (no longer active, I hope!) several years back. The gentleman had published multiple books in a similar genre and on a similar theme and had some decent sales. Perfect!

    Sent the manuscript over. Three days in, I got an email.

    "So, when does the story start? I'm at Chapter 7."

    I knew exactly where he was and my reply was "Soon...kind of. There's just a few things..."

    Another week went by. Another email.

    "I'm at Chapter 10...WHEN DOES THE STORY START?"

    I still urged him to carry on, but it was clear something was wrong.

    Another week: "OK, I'm at Chapter 17 and I still have no idea where this is going. I thought this was a time travel book? Where's the time travel?"

    "It's coming," I promised, knowing it was, that he was only a couple chapters away from when shit started to hit the fan, "Just carry on. I swear, it's good!"

    Another two weeks, and then: "OK, I'm giving up. I got to Chapter 25 and I see where this is going but it's just too damn slow moving, sorry."

    ^As a point of information, that iteration of the book was 200,000 words long.


    FIND A BETA READER AND LISTEN TO THEM

  4. #14
    Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell was Susanna Clarke's first novel and it weighs in at 282,750 words, and that was something like ... nine years ago? Twelve? Recently-ish; not totally current but not a whole different era, and it is supernatural fantasy which does tend to allow for more wordiness. There are general patterns - many agents may be reluctant to take on a long novel due to very real market pressures - but then again, the occasional one may take a punt. Then there's self-publishing. It depends somewhat on what you want to achieve as well as the quality of your writing.

    Incidentally if you are after beta readers I will happily take a look at the first three chapters (which is a typical submission pack length). Can't really take on more than that though.


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  5. #15
    Happens to everyone. In the review process you will find a lot of places that you can cut down.
    Last edited by EntrepreneurRideAlong; January 3rd, 2020 at 06:12 PM. Reason: Spelling mistake
    Blogging, writing, and more writing at Hidden Content . Book coming soon!

  6. #16
    I should also mention, a good editor will help with this. I found my editor through a VA Facebook group. She helped me cut out a lot of fluff
    Blogging, writing, and more writing at Hidden Content . Book coming soon!

  7. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by bdcharles View Post
    Incidentally if you are after beta readers I will happily take a look at the first three chapters (which is a typical submission pack length). Can't really take on more than that though.
    It may be a while but I’d love to take you up on that. I’ve got to do some revising of the opening to tie it in with the revising I did of the third act.
    "We learn more by fixing mistakes than we ever would have if things had gone right in the first place."
    --Keith Bontrager

  8. #18
    If you haven't had beta readers, my experience is that most first novels, no matter how well edited, will be given a lot of cut-cut-cut feedback, not in terms of story, but in prose. If you have not had beta readers, if I were you, I would get 2-3 and ask them to give editing suggestions on the first chapter. Apply them and see if you agree. Often, the effect of the suggestions will cut from 10 to 30 or more percent of the words.

    Cut this filter word. Cut this exposition as it could be left to subtext. Cut this paragraph because it summarizes the last two paragraphs. This paragraph is a repeat of an earlier paragraph. Cut this word repetition or reword. This scene lacks tension and only delivers exposition, so cut the scene and move the exposition to another scene. Cut this apologetic language. Cut "it appeared" because it doesn't actually negotiate a POV breach better than staying in voice. Cut this. Cut that.

    You might not agree with all of the suggestions, and who knows, maybe that's not the kind of feedback you'll get, but it is usually the feedback you'll get. If you agree with it, you could then apply it across the board through the novel and get the word count down before you give it to anyone else to read.

    I think longer novels have to meet a higher standard of conciseness. Personally, I'll read a very wordy short story, but if I get into the third or fourth page of a 400 word novel and realize that it strikes me as wordy, I won't keep going.
    Last edited by JohnCalliganWrites; January 3rd, 2020 at 09:46 PM.

  9. #19
    As you said, that's pretty wordy for your genre of choice. What I do is look at a paragraph and find sentences that are excessively wordy or can be stated slightly differently to cut down the word count.

    Sent from my SM-N975U using Tapatalk

  10. #20
    In modern terms, a 200,000 word book is approx 540 pages long (assuming a 6x9 format).
    It is possible to sell a 200k book to a publisher, but as I mentioned, it would be difficult.
    Here is a good example of the current industry standards.



    But publishers do buy books of that length. In fact, the current #5 ranked book on Amazon is 545 pages long.
    https://www.amazon.com/All-Light-We-.../dp/B00DPM7TIG
    However, you should keep in mind that this book is by an established author.

    But as Scars pointed out, you have more than one possible path for publishing your novel.
    Once upon a time I wrote a book that was 253,000 words long.
    Agents and publishers alike rejected the book because of its length.
    So I became an Indie publisher.
    That book sold well, and ultimately spawned a whole series of books.
    You can check the results here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00GW5WIYI


    So to reinforce what I said earlier; don't go chopping your story mindlessly to meet an arbitrary word-count.
    Write the best story you possibly can.
    Cut only that which does not progress the story or illustrate your characters.
    Binge-books are a thing.

    Also, when accepting advice, take note of the source. Examine their credentials, read their reviews, look at their sales rankings.

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