What is the best word count for a novel? - Page 3


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Thread: What is the best word count for a novel?

  1. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by Cephus View Post
    It's more a matter of the more successful the author, the more terrified the publisher is to force them to use an editor. The same is true of J.K. Rowling and why the last Harry Potter books got so insufferably long. They were making so much money off of her that they were afraid to piss her off.
    That's the prime example I reference when the discussion gets around to an author that's "Too Big to Edit".

    However, it doesn't have to only be long manuscripts. Alan Dean Foster got "too big to edit". He didn't write longer novels, he just started turning in crap and got away with it.

  2. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by Taylor View Post
    I seem to be finding conflicting information about what would be the best word count for getting a publisher interested in a novel. Or once it's published, to help it sell well.

    The writers advice blogs generally say around 70,000-90,000. But when I look at best sellers they are a lot more.

    The Gold Finch - 297,680 words
    50 Shades of Grey - 172,260
    The Shining - 200,000
    A Tale of Two Cities - 135,000 words
    The Da Vinci Code -170,000 words
    The Catcher in the Rye - 73,000 words (I remember thinking this one was quite short when I first read it)
    The Philosophers Stone (Harry Potter) -
    76,944 words (a younger readership)

    I know people say just use as many words as you need to tell the story, but I have lots of characters and two plotlines, so I could take it into different directions if needed. For a first time author writing a corporate thriller, what would be a good word count range to get publishers interested?



    Ignore word counts.
    Write the best damned book you can.
    I have seen too many writers gut a book to meet some unwritten word count (myself included.)

    Damn the torpedoes and word counts.

  3. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by Ralph Rotten View Post
    Ignore word counts.
    Write the best damned book you can.
    I have seen too many writers gut a book to meet some unwritten word count (myself included.)

    Damn the torpedoes and word counts.
    Except when they're written word counts. Send 70K to Baen and they'll dump it. They're not interested in anything short of 100K. Their top end preference is 130K. Send in 250K without being a name? Zero chance.

    Like Terry pointed out in the similar Writing Discussion thread, there is advantage to knowing the business for anyone aspiring to be a professional. Sure, if someone is just writing for their own gratification and doesn't care about ever finding a market, write what you want and don't pay attention. For those who want to do some business, learning their way around is a good idea.

    Look, there are all levels of writers. Effective writers who have a chance at an agent and a publisher are most likely going to be subject to word count. The author who "writes long" is seldom a good judge of whether or not they did that. Stranger in a Strange Land went in at well over 200K words. The editor and the publisher made Heinlein "gut" it to about 180K. He opposed the cuts. Then the darned book went ahead and won a Hugo. I've read both versions. The editor was right.

  4. #24
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    Oh, wow. This is a sticky wicket. I must agree with Ralph Rotten. Write the best damned novel you can.

    Then, edit it like a reader. Unfortunately when I do that, it generally grows.

    Then, copy edit it. I might suggest the minimum would be to use a program such as Grammarly on it. I might also suggest a human copy editor but they can get expensive. I am always amazed at how many commas are required to write a novel. No matter how you do it, this is the most important determinant of correct grammar and punctuation.

    Then read it out loud to someone else. How long did that take? a good medium novel requires somewhere between 6-7 hours to read out load. That would be 60 - 70,000 words. A long novel might take twice that long. How did your story sound? Is it what you expected? Did the listener ask questions or for explanations? Fixing that adds to the size, but by all means, fix it... then copy edit it again.

    Only after you have that all done can you begin to worry about the size.
    My traditional publisher particularly targeted novels in the 50 - 90,000 word rangeas being appropriate for his business.
    Look on Amazon for the 10 Best Sellers in your category. How long are they by word count or pages? How does your word count compare to theirs?
    It should be close. The readers determine what your word count should be. A traditional publisher should also know exactly what he/she is looking for.
    If you are aiming at the traditional publisher, then look at their guidelines for a clue. Otherwise, use the average of the top 10 Best Sellers as your guide.

    If you want to sell novels then you must write to the market you are selling into no matter if you publish traditionally or Indie.
    All that being said, write your butt off. Write the best damned novel you can. Write because its your passion... then sell it.
    JMHO
    Last edited by ScifiWriter; February 24th, 2021 at 04:04 PM.

  5. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by ScifiWriter View Post
    Oh, wow. This is a sticky wicket. I must agree with Ralph Rotten. Write the best damned novel you can.

    Then, edit it like a reader. Unfortunately when I do that, it generally grows.

    Then, copy edit it. I might suggest the minimum would be to use a program such as Grammarly on it. I might also suggest a human copy editor but they can get expensive. I am always amazed at how many commas are required to write a novel. No matter how you do it, this is the most important determinant of correct grammar and punctuation.

    Then read it out loud to someone else. How long did that take? a good medium novel requires somewhere between 6-7 hours to read out load. That would be 60 - 70,000 words. A long novel might take twice that long. How did your story sound? Is it what you expected? Did the listener ask questions or for explanations? Fixing that adds to the size, but by all means, fix it... then copy edit it again.

    Only after you have that all done can you begin to worry about the size.
    My traditional publisher particularly targeted novels in the 50 - 90,000 word rangeas being appropriate for his business.
    Look on Amazon for the 10 Best Sellers in your category. How long are they by word count or pages? How does your word count compare to theirs?
    It should be close. The readers determine what your word count should be. A traditional publisher should also know exactly what he/she is looking for.
    If you are aiming at the traditional publisher, then look at their guidelines for a clue. Otherwise, use the average of the top 10 Best Sellers as your guide.

    If you want to sell novels then you must write to the market you are selling into no matter if you publish traditionally or Indie.
    All that being said, write your butt off. Write the best damned novel you can. Write because its your passion... then sell it.
    JMHO
    That's great advice about the reading out loud. I will try that! Fortunately for me I have a live in editor. My husband was an English teacher.

    But when you say to compare with the ten best sellers in my category, that's where I get confused because they are all in the 120-170,000 range. For example Crazy Rich Asians, Kevin Kwok's first novel would be a direct comparison, and it is 130,000. Yet most advice I find recommends for a first novel keeping it under 90,000. Do you see my conundrum?
    Sometimes in the waves of change we find our new direction...
    - unknown

  6. #26
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    First novel or not, you will never sell it if its too short.
    from what I see, you should be writing about 120,000 word novel.
    No matter how hard you try, if you shoot for 120, you will end up longer than that.
    I crank out one scifi novel in 2 months. That would be about 60,000 words. So, I would presume to spend 4-6 months to crank out a 120,000 word novel, but that is just me. Once I put my characters into action, they write the whole story for me.
    I have a couple of stories over 120,000 words, but I wrote them years ago.
    But now I ramble on.

  7. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by ScifiWriter View Post
    First novel or not, you will never sell it if its too short.
    from what I see, you should be writing about 120,000 word novel.
    No matter how hard you try, if you shoot for 120, you will end up longer than that.
    I crank out one scifi novel in 2 months. That would be about 60,000 words. So, I would presume to spend 4-6 months to crank out a 120,000 word novel, but that is just me. Once I put my characters into action, they write the whole story for me.
    I have a couple of stories over 120,000 words, but I wrote them years ago.
    But now I ramble on.
    See, 120,000 makes sense. I'm at about 65,000 now and I still have a lot to story to tell. But people say a publisher won't take a chance on a first time novelist with more than 100,000. But I do not write at the same speed you do. I estimate about one year for completion including the plot and character development period. That may be a factor with finding a publisher as well. I don't know if they look for authors who will be more prolific.
    Sometimes in the waves of change we find our new direction...
    - unknown

  8. #28
    Quote Originally Posted by ideasmith View Post
    Are micro or flash fiction good for a new author to try to get published? Would publishers be more likely to take a chance on someone who can spin a good yarn with fewer words, and if the books were successful, could always ask the author to write meatier?
    Good idea, but I'm already at 65K, so it might be too late with this piece. I think I'm all in for a full length novel now. But perhaps for the next one.
    Sometimes in the waves of change we find our new direction...
    - unknown

  9. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by Pamelyn Casto View Post
    Ideasmith, I've studied flash fiction for years. Have taught online courses in it for years. I've also written on the topic for all sorts of publications (including articles for Writer's Digest). My first book on the topic was recently released. I love good flash fiction. This kind of fiction is as difficult to write as good poetry. It's not easy writing merely because the writing's short. So that's a bit of my my background on the topic.

    Here's a bit of my personal history with the form. I read a tiny story by Padgett Powell, fell in love with his writing, and purchased his recently released novel. I read a couple of tiny stories by Lydia Davis, fell in love with her writing, and bought three of her collections. Other purchases have happened similarly (Jorge Luis Borges and Eduardo Galeano, for example). Clearly, I'd guess it's clear anyway, I love good flash fiction.

    Yes, micros or flash fiction can be good for a new author to try to publish. Their use elsewhere shows the novel publisher this writer knows how to write, knows who to approach to get his/ her ideas viewed, and who shows their hard work is valuable to many others. Just try to avoid thinking of flash as less meaty work. After all, many recent novels are flash pieces done in novel form. So the tiny pieces, like bricks, can make a larger form. Good luck. You will find many treasures in the flash fiction world. I love think think of you adding to those treasures.
    Thanks for the advice! I have a series in mind for flash fiction after this novel is finished. It is for the YA market. I'll take a look at your book before I get started.
    Sometimes in the waves of change we find our new direction...
    - unknown

  10. #30
    Quote Originally Posted by Pamelyn Casto;[URL="tel:2333298"
    2333298[/URL]]Ideasmith, I've studied flash fiction for years. Have taught online courses in it for years. I've also written on the topic for all sorts of publications (including articles for Writer's Digest). My first book on the topic was recently released. I love good flash fiction. This kind of fiction is as difficult to write as good poetry. It's not easy writing merely because the writing's short. So that's a bit of my my background on the topic.

    Here's a bit of my personal history with the form. I read a tiny story by Padgett Powell, fell in love with his writing, and purchased his recently released novel. I read a couple of tiny stories by Lydia Davis, fell in love with her writing, and bought three of her collections. Other purchases have happened similarly (Jorge Luis Borges and Eduardo Galeano, for example). Clearly, I'd guess it's clear anyway, I love good flash fiction.

    Yes, micros or flash fiction can be good for a new author to try to publish. Their use elsewhere shows the novel publisher this writer knows how to write, knows who to approach to get his/ her ideas viewed, and who shows their hard work is valuable to many others. Just try to avoid thinking of flash as less meaty work. After all, many recent novels are flash pieces done in novel form. So the tiny pieces, like bricks, can make a larger form. Good luck. You will find many treasures in the flash fiction world. I love think think of you adding to those treasures.
    Thank you, Pamelyn;

    To clarify my position, Iím not looking for an easy, no-work path to getting published. Iíve heard about micro fiction in the context that thatís what some/many readers want. What Iím really asking is: is micro fiction or something like it a good thing for a new and unpublished author to produce, given what the market may be after?

    While unpublished, I am no stranger to writing. I toil over concept, sentence structure and word choices to get things just right. Thereís nothing easy about that, as we all know.

    Thank you!

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