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GiantRampagingPencil
09-19-2012, 02:52 AM
I'm writing my first novel. (A David Weber-esque space opera.) I realized mid-story that would take approximately 200 000k words to tell, so I've had to split it into a duology.

The problem is that the split means the first book is not self-contained. I've done my best at constructing a break/climax by wrapping up as many plot points as I could. The MMC realizes that the FMC is in love with him, realizes the true nature of his feelings for her, and saves the weapon that could win the war. It ends with his attaining his own command.

Much is resolved, but much more remains.

The war is not over, and the MMC and FMC have not consummated their love. In fact, she isn't even present at the book's end, and I can't make her present without doing irreparable damage to the plot. Nor can I cram an epic war for humanity's survival into a single book.

According to what I've heard, 200 000k horse-choking cinder-block won't be accepted, and books in a series are tough to sell unless they stand alone.

With this in mind, how should I approach an agent?

Filigree
09-19-2012, 03:41 AM
200K is pretty big for a debut author right now. The writing would have to be stellar to entice an agent. If you believe you've done everything you can to make it shine, then concentrate on one helluva great query letter. Break off a self-contained 17K or smaller segment and enter it in Writers of the Future. If it wins any mentions, leverage that in a query letter (hey, it worked for Rothfuss!)

But if you have the smallest shred of doubt, rest assured the agent or editor will, too.

Is there any way you can break the book into thirds? Maybe find a shorter opening quest/conflict?

GiantRampagingPencil
09-19-2012, 05:12 AM
If I break it into a duology, I'll have two books about 100 000k, but I'll be leaving a significant plot thread unresolved. Is that a viable approach?

ARoyce
09-19-2012, 05:54 AM
The first book should be able to stand alone. So there should be a clear sense of closure regarding the plot. For example, THE HUNGER GAMES has a clear sense of closure for the main conflict, but then in the second book, it turns out that there are bigger issues at work in the aftermath of the first book.

My suggestion is to split it into two 100,000 books but make some revisions to Book 1 to give it some sense of completeness (for instance, if there are multiple battles over the course of the 200k, end Book 1 at the conclusion of a pivotal battle).

Old Hack
09-19-2012, 09:56 AM
I bet if you edited your book carefully enough you could get it down to a single 80k volume without losing anything of the plot or the voice.

And yes, your first book will have to be self-contained and complete in itself so if you want to sell it, you might have to take this route.

quicklime
09-19-2012, 05:27 PM
I bet if you edited your book carefully enough you could get it down to a single 80k volume without losing anything of the plot or the voice.

And yes, your first book will have to be self-contained and complete in itself so if you want to sell it, you might have to take this route.


Rampaging,

To be fair, none of us have seen your work, so I realize this comes across smug and patronizing.....most of us are aware of the caveat that we haven't seen your personal work, but do bear in mind we're also pretty familiar with the numbers. If I'm feeling particularly cheery and non-misanthropic towards writers, I might say 95% of all claims that a person couldn't possibly edit that much are false....on a more normal day, I'd say probably over 99% of those claims are outright crap.

So, I'm seconding Hack's suspicions.

Old Hack
09-19-2012, 09:29 PM
Echoing Quicklime's sentiment and adding to it: even if a book is really well-written it's still possible for a good writer or editor to cut it significantly to make it appropriate for the market. It's often better doing that than trying to split it into two books, neither of which really work as a single unit.

GiantRampagingPencil
09-19-2012, 11:30 PM
I think 80k would be impossible. The volume stands at 106k after a 30k trim. (I'm an as-you-go editor.) I'm nearing the of the second draft and think it will end up at 110k.

Trimming 30k from that AND adding only the essential events in the 2nd half of the story--I can't even conceive of that.

I'll rethink it. Maybe a 125k single vol. is possible.

Cyia
09-20-2012, 12:03 AM
I think 80k would be impossible. The volume stands at 106k after a 30k trim. (I'm an as-you-go editor.) I'm nearing the of the second draft and think it will end up at 110k.

Trimming 30k from that AND adding only the essential events in the 2nd half of the story--I can't even conceive of that.

I'll rethink it. Maybe a 125k single vol. is possible.


Here's the thing.

Get it down to 125 and send it out on query rounds. Nab yourself a great agent, which is completely possible. What happens next is that your agent will likely knock that word count down to under 120K for submission purposes with a few editing rounds. Then, assuming a sale, your editor will keep notching the count down as far as they can without impacting the plot, so you end up with something in the 90-100K range at publication.

Writers are seldom qualified to view their own revisions objectively. One tip I can give you, if you haven't done it already, is to use a kindle (or kindle app) to see how you book looks in "book" format. You'd be surprised what cuts will appear that you'd never noticed before.

heza
09-20-2012, 12:18 AM
The first book should be able to stand alone. So there should be a clear sense of closure regarding the plot. For example, THE HUNGER GAMES has a clear sense of closure for the main conflict, but then in the second book, it turns out that there are bigger issues at work in the aftermath of the first book.

The HUNGER GAMES leaves the romance subplot unresolved, though. BUT Collins wasn't a debut author, either.

To the OP, are there any subplots you could cut and save for a later part of the epic?

GiantRampagingPencil
09-20-2012, 12:59 AM
Subplots, no. The war has apparently been won by the MC's capturing of the secret weapon, even though the last battle needs fighting.

I would be comfortable with the action story as is. The human's have won a huge victory, like the Rebels and the Death Star, but the main romantic plot is up in the air.

WeaselFire
09-20-2012, 01:01 AM
The bottom line on this is getting in the door to be published. By having a high word count, you're cutting down the chances of making it past the first step. Of course it's still possible. But it's also completely possible that you could be struck by lightning, win a $300 million lottery and find a mint 1955 double die penny (still sealed in the pack of cigarettes) on the same day.

It's still your choice, but I'm not betting on you getting published without serious editing.

Jeff

GiantRampagingPencil
09-20-2012, 04:43 AM
I'll try for 120k in one standalone book. 100-120k are the figures I've been reading for sff submissions.

If I can't make it without ruining the plot, I suppose I'll self-pub then write a smaller book.

Something with vampires that feed on teen angst. That'll give me enough cash to thumb my nose at The Man.

GiantRampagingPencil
09-20-2012, 06:13 AM
Starting my attempt at my slender volume now. File name: "Slash and Burn"

It is gonna be tough.

rwm4768
09-20-2012, 08:33 AM
I would let other people read it. They can tell you if it feels like it drags. If you actually need all 200k, it doesn't make sense to cut it down solely for the sake of getting published. You should do what's best for the book. There's a good chance, however, that you might have to write something else first if you want to get published. Then you can give them your masterpiece of a space opera.

GiantRampagingPencil
09-20-2012, 07:00 PM
No one has said it drags. Actually the reverse is true. One reader called it "real rip-snorter" another asked if I could slow it down a tad because it moves too quickly. (Which I did. It was a good lesson in controlling pacing by adding detail.)

I wanted/want speed. I can't deal with the slow unwinding of pace of books like WoT or GoT. They make me want to stitch my eyes shut. My wife bought Brandon Sanderson's "The Way of Kings" and I am almost physically scared of the 400k monstrosity. I probably won't read it--not so much because it is 400k--but because it is only the first of a projected 10.

GiantRampagingPencil
09-20-2012, 08:53 PM
With regards to pacing, this is what happens in the first 100 pages:

(Background: It's the 26th century. The colony ship Cook arrives at the planet of Talune after a ten-year hyperspace voyage. They discover a derelict space ship holding the last survivors of the isirie. The isirie bring word of deadly foe, the foe that destroyed their entire civilization over 400 years ago. The karn.

Together, the isirie and humans settle Talune and a young human man, Will, and an isirie girl, Miri, become best friends.

But what has become of the karn?)


The story begins two years after First Contact. Will and Miri are exploring one of the ruins of her people that dot Talune. I fill in a little background about the isirie and the war and establish that Miri is passionately in love with Will, but he is clueless.

But a storm is rolling in, night is falling, and with night come the grendels, a ravenous, pack-hunting, nocturnal predator native to Talune. So Will's father, Jim, and his friend, Aleksey, are coming out to pick them up by air as planned.

But a karn ship enters the atmosphere and nukes the colony. The EMP causes Jim and Aleksey to crash and strands Will and Miri among rising winds and howling grendels.

The temperature begins to drop precipitously, sending Miri into hypothermic shock. (Isirie do not tolerate cold well.) She tries to tell him of her love for him, but the grendels attack. Will stands over her fighting them off with his pistol. He runs out of bullets, but stands firm, pocket knife in hand, defending the woman he loves to the last. (If only he knew his own heart!)

But three grendels are circling . . .

Jim and Aleksey survive the crash and set out to find them, arriving in the nick of time and shoot the last two. The four companions flee through the forest, hiding from the karn mop-up parties, heading for the caves in the north.

For several days they flee, passing like ghosts and shadows through the primeval forest. Finally they break from the treeline, only to find the corpses of their friends and family, lying slaughtered by the banks of a frigid and nameless stream. As they stand, wrapped in grief, the wind shifts, and soon distant howling fills their ears.

Grendels have caught their scent.

They redouble their pace but discover a karn platoon between them and safety and a karn drone in the air, closing in from above. Will's father shoots it down and stays behind to cover their escape. He knows he will die; he knows he has to die, so the karn will think they have found the shooter, but he only cares that his son will live.

Will promises he will return as soon as Miri is safe.

He starts sniping, but there is too many and all appears lost . . . then several dozen tons of slavering carnivore take the karn in the rear. As they battle, Jim breaks cover and makes a run for some grenades on a fallen karn soldier's belt, but is spotted and shot.

Jim lies dying, a rising tide filling his lungs. Soon all the roars of the grendels have faded and he knows the karn are victorious. His consciousness flickers and then two karn soldiers are standing over him. He reaches for his weapon, but it has been kicked away. It doesn't matter--his son is safe. A karn soldier raises his hand and pulls off it's claw-scarred helmet. The face under it isn't karn. It's isirie. That seems important, but his mind is too cloudy. He holds to the thought that his son is safe as the karn/isirie execute him.


That's 100 pages. It is not a bunch of throat-clearing. Then I pick up the pace.

Old Hack
09-20-2012, 09:35 PM
No one has said it drags. Actually the reverse is true.

No one suggested it dragged here, either. You told us that it was over-long and you were advised, "I would let other people read it. They can tell you if it feels like it drags." That's a whole lot different.


I can't deal with the slow unwinding of pace of books like WoT or GoT. They make me want to stitch my eyes shut. My wife bought Brandon Sanderson's "The Way of Kings" and I am almost physically scared of the 400k monstrosity. I probably won't read it--not so much because it is 400k--but because it is only the first of a projected 10.

Nope. You don't sneer at other books just because you don't like them: "respect your fellow writer" applies just as much to the authors of the books you're disparaging there as it does to the other members of AW. Take greater care, Rampage.


With regards to pacing, this is what happens in the first 100 pages:

<snipped>

That's 100 pages. It is not a bunch of throat-clearing. Then I pick up the pace.

Have you read Beowulf? You might like to.

You've just told us the story of your first 100 pages, which should be about 25,000 words, in around 600 words, and I found it pretty dull. That doesn't bode well for the pacing you'll achieve when you have 25,000 words to play with.

But telling us what happens isn't the same as us reading your prose. It might be shiny and wonderful and bright. We can't really tell from your synopsis.

But that's not the point, is it? The point is that you asked us this:


I'm writing my first novel [...] I realized mid-story that would take approximately 200 000k words to tell, so I've had to split it into a duology.

The problem is that the split means the first book is not self-contained. [...] According to what I've heard, 200 000k [sic] horse-choking cinder-block won't be accepted, and books in a series are tough to sell unless they stand alone.

With this in mind, how should I approach an agent?

Rampage, you've been given some good advice in this thread but you seem determined to argue with everyone who disagrees with you.

You've been advised that if you split your book into two but they aren't self-contained you're going to struggle to sell them.

You've been advised that if you keep it as one big 200k monster of a book, you're going to struggle to sell it.

You've been advised that if you're careful you should be able to cut your book down to a more appropriate size.

But you're not interested in any of that: you just keep on disagreeing with us all, and telling us we don't understand or appreciate your problems.

Fair enough.

We'll stop offering you our help. I'll close this thread. Please don't open ask this question again elsewhere on AW: you won't get a different response. If you want me to reopen this thread so that you can respond more thoughtfully to the useful advice you've been given then feel free. But for now, I think we're done here.