Uh oh... What if my book is too long?? - Page 3


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

  1. #21
    I feel like one of the best things that has come out of the 'Indie Publishing Revolution' is that there is now an option for people who want to deviate from the norms that all-too-often in the past have led to good books being unread.

    There are many examples of novels and novelists in the past who only saw major sales after they died. H.P Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe are two that spring to mind. These writers wrote prolifically but were constantly given the cold shoulder during their lifetimes by swarms of literary professionals who considered their work unsaleable. The fact anybody knows who they are today is down to the quality of their work and luck. How different might things have been for them if they were able to bypass the sneer-brigade and self-publish to reach their readers directly? Plenty more authors had to bend over backwards to make their work publishable.

    The flipside of that argument, of course, is that for every once-unfortunate Lovecraft or previously-unfairly-maligned-during-their-lifetime Poe, there are hundreds and thousands of shitty-beyond-shitty 'authors' who are able to 'publish' and even *whisper* sell a decent number of books through self-publishing channels like Amazon. Often based on little more than relentless self-promotion and appealing to genres where quality control tends to be lacking. Books which are rife with spelling errors, terrible dialogue, and -- yes -- far too many pages of waffling baloney. I literally downloaded one yesterday. All kinds of preposterous nonsense and the thing had somehow got itself onto the 'Popular On Kindle Unlimited' list. I read four pages and deleted it away. I find myself doing that a lot with the KU crap.

    Anyway, the conventions that govern traditional publishing is still, for me, a good filter for quality literature, so when I see 'recommendations' that first-time novels not exceed 100,000 words I take that on board strongly and will look for ways to trim the fat to bring it as close to that number as possible. Again, these numbers don't just come out of thin air.

    But Ralph is essentially correct that IF the book absolutely cannot be made shorter than 200,000 words and shopping it around to a good number of agents leads to nothing but a 'no thanks', then Indie is definitely a good and entirely legitimate route. And definitely a far better option than cutting for the sake of cutting until the heart of the story is gone.
    "If you don't like my peaches, don't shake my tree."

    "Perhaps I write for no one. Perhaps for the same person children are writing for when they scrawl their names in the snow."

    “Remember this: Dumbo didn’t need the feather; the magic was in him. ”

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  2. #22
    Member Amnesiac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bdcharles View Post
    Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell was Susanna Clarke's first novel
    I loved that book!
    “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” -Hemingway

  3. #23
    A longer book can be daunting, however, if the story is intriguing and the writing is good I'll enjoy every word.

  4. #24
    Lots of good advice in here, thank you all.

    This situation has helped me change my mindset, and it’s been enlightening to approach every scene with the following criteria:
    -What needs to exist in order to progress the story?
    -What needs to exist to develop the characters?
    -What can be eliminated or condensed to make it more efficient?

    I’ve got a list of ideas already forming to trim this thing down, and they all feel good. In every case the scenes that were good are now going to be much more relevant and punchy.
    "We learn more by fixing mistakes than we ever would have if things had gone right in the first place."
    --Keith Bontrager

  5. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by indianroads View Post
    A longer book can be daunting, however, if the story is intriguing and the writing is good I'll enjoy every word.

    Yep, but binging isn't just for Netflix anymore.
    I got a number of reviews that loved that Calizona because they could stay in that world for days.

    But think twice about self publishing. You really need a lotta skills (besides writing) to Indie publish properly.
    Covers don't design themselves, blurbs don't write themselves, and eBooks don't build themselves.

  6. #26
    Member Tomkat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Olly Buckle View Post
    Yep, what he says /\ /\ up there. My last post was an attempt to say that humorously, but seriously, it is your book, write it your way. And if you juggle it about after do so because you want to. It may be you read something and think they have a point sometime, but you don't have to accept any of it, and maybe you are the one with the point. They can't really know it needs trimming in any way, they have not read it.
    This is a good advice. Thank you Mr.Buckle

  7. #27
    If I do split it up into multiple books, I’ll probably have to split up chapters too. What’s a good work count range for chapters? I’m currently at 4-6k, sometimes more or less.
    "We learn more by fixing mistakes than we ever would have if things had gone right in the first place."
    --Keith Bontrager

  8. #28
    Quote Originally Posted by Eicca View Post
    If I do split it up into multiple books, I’ll probably have to split up chapters too. What’s a good work count range for chapters? I’m currently at 4-6k, sometimes more or less.
    Chapters are very flexible. The original purpose of a chapter was to split a novel into parts that can be read in 'a sitting', rather like how the idea of a short story was to provide something that can be read beginning to end without a break. A chapter is a way to divide a long novel into digestible pieces like food on a fork.

    Because times have changed, and the definition of what constitutes 'a sitting' varies anyway, chapters are extremely flexible. Some run only a page or two (extreme cases, for effect, have examples which are just one sentence or even a single word), but usually a few thousand words is typical, so 4-6k would most likely be fine. Probably try to keep it within the 5k mark where possible, but there's no rules here. One of my chapters is 7k but because it 'reads fast' I don't think it feels overly long.

    Genre might dictate how you structure a book (a more action-oriented book will likely have shorter chapters as scenes tend to require less build up), as might reader age (chapters in books aimed at younger readers tend to be much shorter), or just personal preference and writing style and the type of book it is.

    In my current novel, I like most of my chapters to run a little longer - 5,000-6,000 words, with that 7k one & and a couple closer to 4k- which I then split into un-numbered sub-chapters, indicated by line breaks. There is no set length to the sub-chapters, they end when they end according to each scene.

    I think, generally, it's optimal if chapter length is vaguely consistent and a chapter follows the length of a scene at one scene = one chapter. In this novel, a scene-per-chapter wasn't really possible, as the length of the scenes meant the chapters were either too short or too long. Hence I used the sub-chapter thing, so I could increase some of the chapter lengths to occasionally near the 7,000 word mark while still keeping the scenes dispersed.

    Bottom line: You can do what you want with chapters. Some books have no formal chapters at all. Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King, for example.
    Last edited by luckyscars; January 5th, 2020 at 09:29 AM.
    "If you don't like my peaches, don't shake my tree."

    "Perhaps I write for no one. Perhaps for the same person children are writing for when they scrawl their names in the snow."

    “Remember this: Dumbo didn’t need the feather; the magic was in him. ”

    Hidden Content


  9. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by Eicca View Post
    If I do split it up into multiple books, I’ll probably have to split up chapters too. What’s a good work count range for chapters? I’m currently at 4-6k, sometimes more or less.

    There is no fixed length for chapters.
    Personally, I start a new chapter when something changes in the story. When the mood of the story changes, or the plot takes a turn, or sometimes when I introduce a new character. New chapters are a great place to set up a proper character introduction & subsequent development. After all, characters are everything. The plot is just the stage upon which your actors perform.

    My chapters range from a few thousand words, to as much as 29k. It's all about the flow of the story.
    Also, I am a big fan of naming chapters, so each new chapter has a title that hints cryptically at what is to come.
    I always thought it was lazy writing to just number chapters. (and it makes the index look stupid too.)

  10. #30
    Member KHK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ralph Rotten View Post
    There is no fixed length for chapters.
    Personally, I start a new chapter when something changes in the story. When the mood of the story changes, or the plot takes a turn, or sometimes when I introduce a new character. New chapters are a great place to set up a proper character introduction & subsequent development. After all, characters are everything. The plot is just the stage upon which your actors perform.

    My chapters range from a few thousand words, to as much as 29k. It's all about the flow of the story.
    In the same book?
    Or did you mean that you have some books with shorter chapters, and some others with extra long ones?

    If it's the same book, are you not concerned that there could have been some innate cadence to the story but it gets broken by the chapters of very uneven lengths?

    And if you just free-flow with the story, why bother breaking the text into chapters at all? Just start a new paragraph, maybe after an extra empty line?

    Disclaimer: none of the above is meant as criticism, overt or implied. As a newbie to this writing business, I genuinely want to understand


    Quote Originally Posted by Ralph Rotten View Post
    Also, I am a big fan of naming chapters, so each new chapter has a title that hints cryptically at what is to come.
    Something like "Chapter XXVII, In Which Romunculus Platt Tries to Buy a Horse, But Inexplicably Finds Himself in a Different Realm"?

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