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Old 18th February 2008, 01:29 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Confusions about Length

I am confused, befuddled and I am sure thats a usual Australian trait (or maybe it comes from my Dad's British heritage) but its causing me some problems.

After reading a lot of website about publishing and so on I now get the thoughts I had come to clearly thrown into KAOS! by one of John's posts.

I have been writing my story (novel book manuscript, or whatever else you want to call it, its still a story at heart) and recently came to the 80K mark and was considering having this chapter as my final chapter. Making it into a 3 book series of all books roughly equal length. This seemed to be where a lot of the website were leading, saying that for a first time author publishers didnt want to print too many pages if they couldnt be sure it would sell well. Once you were published though your word count could increase drastically (ie. Rowlings).

Now I see a post from John saying 120K+.

This has thrown me into a spin. But I see a few ways around this and wanted to see what other people think.

(Yes, I am new here, thankyou for the welcomes I am sure to come. I've been reading a few threads on here for a little while but never actually posted anything.)

I can go back through my work and get what I have (the 80K) up to submission standard and, well, submit it. Once submitted get onto writing the next section.

Or should I just go right ahead and make it into 2 books, or even 1 big book?

I dont have a cohesive story that will last for 3 books of 200K. I can likely lead on to other books later with the way my story is, but not in 1 cohesive story-line.

What would be better for me to do with this?

Or should I just forget about wolves completely and go back to the other story I started before I moved from one city to another, the story that would easily be three long books. Yes, my current story is about wolves and some humans and a dog.

The point I am trying to make here is "What is the more acceptable standard today."

Is it about length of books? or number of books? And what do publishers really want to see in it. Is a book of 200K made to be into a complete story in a single novel likely to draw a publishers eyes and make them want to print it? Or are they going to say cut it in half and make 2 books? Oh I am cinfused about what to do.

Should I just fix up what I have done and submit it anyway? Seeing what kind of replies I get back about it?

Last edited by Ishar; 18th February 2008 at 01:51 AM. Reason: added section under italics
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Old 18th February 2008, 08:49 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Confusions about Length

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ishar View Post
I am confused, befuddled and I am sure thats a usual Australian trait (or maybe it comes from my Dad's British heritage) but its causing me some problems.

After reading a lot of website about publishing and so on I now get the thoughts I had come to clearly thrown into KAOS! by one of John's posts.

I have been writing my story (novel book manuscript, or whatever else you want to call it, its still a story at heart) and recently came to the 80K mark and was considering having this chapter as my final chapter. Making it into a 3 book series of all books roughly equal length. This seemed to be where a lot of the website were leading, saying that for a first time author publishers didnt want to print too many pages if they couldnt be sure it would sell well. Once you were published though your word count could increase drastically (ie. Rowlings).

Now I see a post from John saying 120K+.

This has thrown me into a spin. But I see a few ways around this and wanted to see what other people think.

(Yes, I am new here, thankyou for the welcomes I am sure to come. I've been reading a few threads on here for a little while but never actually posted anything.)

I can go back through my work and get what I have (the 80K) up to submission standard and, well, submit it. Once submitted get onto writing the next section.

Or should I just go right ahead and make it into 2 books, or even 1 big book?

I dont have a cohesive story that will last for 3 books of 200K. I can likely lead on to other books later with the way my story is, but not in 1 cohesive story-line.

What would be better for me to do with this?

Or should I just forget about wolves completely and go back to the other story I started before I moved from one city to another, the story that would easily be three long books. Yes, my current story is about wolves and some humans and a dog.

The point I am trying to make here is "What is the more acceptable standard today."

Is it about length of books? or number of books? And what do publishers really want to see in it. Is a book of 200K made to be into a complete story in a single novel likely to draw a publishers eyes and make them want to print it? Or are they going to say cut it in half and make 2 books? Oh I am cinfused about what to do.

Should I just fix up what I have done and submit it anyway? Seeing what kind of replies I get back about it?
The first 'standard' is the length of a specific book. The second is that series sell far better than one-off novels. In UK terms, anything under 100,000 words is considered short, and most SF novels are 120,000 words or more - fantasy is often longer, of course. Above 180,000 words or thereabouts, the cost of producing the book will also come into play. So it's possible that making this two books of 100,000 words each might be your best option, but obviously I only say that as a general point - I can't comment on specific books that I haven't seen! Check out recent SF and Fantasy novels in your local bookshops from the newer writers.

I'll say it again: if anyone wants commercial publication, then that basic sort of market research is a Good Thing. You need to know where the market stands in 2008 in terms of length, the areas of the genre in which new writers are being published, etc. No one is writing in a vacuum.
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Old 18th February 2008, 11:33 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Confusions about Length

Quote:
I have been writing my story (novel book manuscript, or whatever else you want to call it, its still a story at heart) and recently came to the 80K mark and was considering having this chapter as my final chapter. Making it into a 3 book series of all books roughly equal length. This seemed to be where a lot of the website were leading, saying that for a first time author publishers didnt want to print too many pages if they couldnt be sure it would sell well. Once you were published though your word count could increase drastically (ie. Rowlings).
Don't be scared about the amount of the words you are using, because if you now would rewrite your first book, you would notice that you would make it much longer - as you have developed yourself as a storyteller.

However, you might want think about wrapping all three books as a one, as your overall 240k words would equal as a 600 page long novel. The three books could work easily as the three acts (beginning, middle and end).

What do you think, is a 200 page novel bit too thin for your taste? Or do you think that a epic-long novel would feel bit much better, and reveal to the publishers on how well you have developed as a storyteller (even using classical three acts as a tool)?
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Old 18th February 2008, 11:56 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Confusions about Length

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Or should I just forget about wolves completely and go back to the other story I started before I moved from one city to another, the story that would easily be three long books. Yes, my current story is about wolves and some humans and a dog.


You say that you have a plot for length of two books, therefore, allow me to put it this way. You have developed your adventure so far, using the tools and hooks that you have distributed throughout the beginning book, and on next book, you are going give audience the answers to the to questions, and close down the story. Therefore, what if, you as a writer and storyteller, come in a point that the answers to the questions opens up new ones (new possibilities)?

Can you develop your wolf-pack, the dog and the 'two-legged ones' more and make the story longer? Can you, for example, make your characters rounder by giving them deeper history? Can you use these 'histories' to create conflicts that make your story noticeable longer?
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Old 18th February 2008, 03:41 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Confusions about Length

There was an interesting interview with a Gollancz SF editor in one of the BSFA publications the other month. She said that the shortest novel they had published recently was 80K. She also observed that the US market had moved away from very long novels, and was requiring authors to split up or trim down their work. That might be worth taking into consideration, depending on the market you're aiming for.
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Old 18th February 2008, 03:47 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Re: Confusions about Length

Yes, it appears the US market does publish some shorter books than the UK - and some of the supernatural thrillers and romances (i.e. vampires and sex) have been shorter. Most mainstream SF and Fantasy novels are still considerably longer than that, though, in the UK.
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Old 18th February 2008, 09:10 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Re: Confusions about Length

It appears your dilemma, Ishar, is what is the marketable speculative novel length in AUSTRALIA?! We had a couple Aussie writers in an anthology last year--I'll see if any of them has any input.
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Old 18th February 2008, 09:45 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Re: Confusions about Length

Well, see, that also poses another dilemma. As if I shoot for agents outside of Australia and somehow manage to land one, isnt it more likely they will attempt to get me published in their own region.

What I might do is fix it up (as you say, I will likely be adding a lot, I feel my style has matured much in this short time. And I keep doing things that I have to remember to add in later) and then get it submittable. Get it into a few Australian agents and maybe one or two overseas, and see if I get any replies back at all. At the same time continue writing the chapters as if making it a two book series. If all goes well, I could always change the 21st chapter into a 1st chapter of a 2nd book.

Maybe in my covering letter I could mention the length ofit and the current expected book count and then the fact that if the story is good enough but the length isnt acceptable that I can do it as a two book series, bringing the length more in line with current books.

Unfortunately I havent read too many Australian authors. Jennifer Fallon being the main one I read.

With 80K roughly being over 300 pages I did have a look back at some novels I have read previously. Legend in PB is 345 pages. Pawn of Prophecy is 330. I know these are old, and no reflection of current standards, but they do make you think. Jordan is obviously of no help in any of this.

Now you say that a series is pretty much the keystone to all of this. But by that do you mean it pretty has to be a cohesive single storyline where you must have read the first book to read the second? Or can it be more like Gemmell and Pratchett, where each book could be read as a single novel, obviously not understanding all characters, but each storyline is completely singular. You could pick up an Discworld or Drenai novel and just read it without having a knowledge of prior novels. It does help to know, but isnt neccesary. My story is open to being written like this.

There is the possiblity of doing something similar to what Eddings did eventually with Belgarath and Polgara. I have eluded to something from the past when the Gods walked the earth and among the humans the animals. And I feel something could definitely be written up for this.

And the ending I have is reasonably open. It is a definite ending to my story arc that I have for my current writing. But it does leave something open for a continuation, of which you likely wouldnt need to have read my current writing to understand what is happening later.

Oh my.

Come back and edit my post:

Now, I am not trying to write a bestseller here. I am not trying to emulate Eddings, Gemmell, Jordan, or Pratchett. I am just trying to write something I have had great fun writing (though it has been pointed out that my fight scene chapters are much better than my slow ones due to the energy I seem to put in them) and something that hopefully many others will enjoy reading.

I am not after fame nor money. Though I would like to see it commercially available in stores (not by order but on the shelves), but thats just to spite my Dad who thinks that if he found any errors in it I would think he was having a go at me (which he undoubtably would be). I want to have that good feeling of someone saying "we really like what we have read and want to print it for you".

Am I crazy in wanting that? No more than you other people. I personally think I crazy though for having wolves as the only thing on my mind.

Which leads to another point. I have difficulty trying to say what is actually similar to what I have written. Watership Downs is by far the closest I can come up with. But this is definitely more fantasy orientated than that was. Then theres Redwall. But the animals in that act too human, standing on hind legs, wearing armour, using weapons. I havent written it like that, a wolf is just a wolf, except for that wolf over there obviously, the one that got hit by the big ball of blue energy.

To quote one of my favourite characters of all time (i am 24, leave me be about this):

"Oh bother" - WInnie the Pooh

John: "I cant comment about specific books I havent seen!" - right you are, give me a bit to do the first 6 chapters up and watch it come, lol. You're a target!

Last edited by Ishar; 18th February 2008 at 10:14 PM. Reason: added quite a bit
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Old 19th February 2008, 02:08 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Re: Confusions about Length

The word/page count relationship can vary a lot depending on the font used, but the usual rule of thumb is 400 words per page, so 80,000 words = c.200 pages, not 300.
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Old 19th February 2008, 02:47 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Re: Confusions about Length

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. This seemed to be where a lot of the website were leading, saying that for a first time author publishers didnt want to print too many pages if they couldnt be sure it would sell well. Once you were published though your word count could increase drastically.
You have to ask yourself whether these websites are talking about SF/Fantasy or whatever genre you happen to be working in.

If you're not writing in the SFF genres, then this is not necessarily the best place to get advice. If you are, you can't do better than listen to what John Jarrold says, after all his years and his continuing involvement in the business.

But if it is SFF, it would help if we all had a general idea of what sort of books you are writing. Science fiction? Alternate history? Epic/heroic fantasy? Historical fantasy? Urban fantasy? Is the book for adults or for younger readers? All of these things make a difference.
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Old 19th February 2008, 05:35 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Re: Confusions about Length

400? wow, everything else says 250 words per page, which is 300 pages.

I called Aus Lit Agency today, and they say for the Australian Fantasy Market 80-100 is what they are looking for in a first book. So I guess I'll stick with that then, might go call a few others and see what they think. Forgot to mention, they manage Jennifer Fallon.

You know, I have trouble classing my story to an exact sub-genre.

It is a fantasy story at heart. But its based around wolves, the protagonist is a wolf. The antagonist is a dog (a wolfhound by looks, but I think I'll call him a bloodwood hound) and the humans are mostly secondary characters and plot devices.

The wolves act like wolves (in most respects), they dont stand on their hind legs, they dont speak in english, they dont use armour nor weapons. They are just wolves. Mind you, the dog isnt just a dog.

Oh its greatly confusing isnt it.

I also decided not to set it medieval but rather the age of sail and muskets. WHich from some novels point of views isnt far from the sword and sorcery time anyway.

The basics of it, in a few lines is:

The wolves have been seperated from the humans for some hundreds of years (due to an occurance between the gods that is partially explained in the story thus far) and have been living on this island.

The island is divided into 5 sections, 4 segments around the island and one circular middle section. Each of the 4 outside sections stays constantly as a different season. Different kinds of wolves inhabit each section and they are kept apart from each other.

Suddenly, when on a hunt they see lights on the water and a ship of humans lands. THis results in an entire clan (read pack here if you will, I use CLan because it sounds cooler and fits the japanese names I use) of one of the sections being wiped out. All but one that is.

The humans take one of the mysterious creatures back with them and now have come back to try and capture one at their benefactors request. But the governor, led on by the Dog (from now on called Innic) has put an agent on the ships, and also trails behind with their Armada.

Now, the humans land, and a number of things have happened thus far. One of the humans (a priest of the hunter god) is given the power to speak to the wolves. The agent kills the wolves leader (this sections leader anyway), and he discovers the bones of the wolf god (Monok, hence the name)

Any of that make any sense? I dont really know if I would call it historical. And epic is usually used for the quest for the magic item kind of stories. Urban doesnt fit. Animal Fantasy? It is aimed at the older audience, most of the people reading it for me are over 30 and loving it.

It obviously doesnt include much sex (none at all in fact) as I think at this point that may be a little wrong. There are a number of fight scenes. SO especially good ones involving the agent and the wolves. Oh I am confused. I'm going to go call some other agents and see what they think. But drat daylight savings for the southern states!
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Old 22nd February 2008, 01:25 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Re: Confusions about Length

How much have you written so far?
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Old 22nd February 2008, 05:25 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Re: Confusions about Length

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400? wow, everything else says 250 words per page, which is 300 pages.
250 is probably closer to the word/page count for a manuscript, not a typeset novel. I think the last book I typeset was ~90-100K words and about 300 pages, so that's, what, 330 words per page? The first HP novel (so I've read) was 95K words, and it was 309 pages in hardcover--so this tracks close. But Anthony was correct in that a lot depends on the format, the font, the kerning, etc, etc.
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Old 22nd February 2008, 06:32 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Re: Confusions about Length

(off topic, I must say that every time I see this thread title it makes me think of the Viagra spam that clogs up my e-mail inbox every day...)
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Old 23rd February 2008, 03:22 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Re: Confusions about Length

well, every book I counted was between 250 and 300. So it all depends on the way its set, but in Word theres are closer to 400 words on a page. And I also read 400 is standard for a hardcover book.

And how many words so far? 82255.
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