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PeteDutcher
08-06-2014, 05:06 AM
I just finished the final draft of my fantasy epic novel today. It took me a year to write it.

I imported all the chapters into my Microsoft Word and got my word count...164,599 words!

I thought it might be around 140,000 words which was pushing it, but over 164,000 words??? I tried to reduce the number of words. I did in some places. But then I added words to tighten up the story.

I write in sort of a Terry Brooks style. I wrote this book with the intent of having a complete epic story in one book. I don't think splitting it in two will work.

I know that few novelists debut with such large novels. Brooks did. Goodkind and Martin did. But it's a different day.

So...do I just approach publishers or should I strive to find an agent? I know finding an agent to handle such a big novel will be tough.

I do not want to self publish this one. Went that route.

Osulagh
08-06-2014, 05:09 AM
Have you thought about cutting it down to size? I know, it can seem impossible, but it can be done I'm sure.

quicklime
08-06-2014, 05:19 AM
the problem with length is agents have trouble selling longer works to publishers, so you aren't going to side-step that by going to the same publishers yourself I am afraid....

mayqueen
08-06-2014, 05:33 AM
First, get yourself a couple of good beta readers to make sure you even need every single one of those 165k words.

Then, polish the hell out of your MS and your query. A strong query and opening pages can sometimes mitigate a high word count.

After that, you won't know until you query.

Finally, accept that after all that, this may not be your debut. You might have to write something else to prove an agent/publisher can get behind you for 165k.

Siri Kirpal
08-06-2014, 06:51 AM
Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Get a good beta reader who can either help you reduce the words or point out where a good break point would be.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

popgun62
08-06-2014, 06:52 AM
I just finished the final draft of my fantasy epic novel today. It took me a year to write it.

I imported all the chapters into my Microsoft Word and got my word count...164,599 words!

I thought it might be around 140,000 words which was pushing it, but over 164,000 words??? I tried to reduce the number of words. I did in some places. But then I added words to tighten up the story.

I write in sort of a Terry Brooks style. I wrote this book with the intent of having a complete epic story in one book. I don't think splitting it in two will work.

I know that few novelists debut with such large novels. Brooks did. Goodkind and Martin did. But it's a different day.

So...do I just approach publishers or should I strive to find an agent? I know finding an agent to handle such a big novel will be tough.

I do not want to self publish this one. Went that route.

Series are very big right now. Have you thought about splitting it into two books? A bit of re-writing could make it work and 80K would be about right for most agents/publishers.

cornflake
08-06-2014, 06:55 AM
I just finished the final draft of my fantasy epic novel today. It took me a year to write it.

I imported all the chapters into my Microsoft Word and got my word count...164,599 words!

I thought it might be around 140,000 words which was pushing it, but over 164,000 words??? I tried to reduce the number of words. I did in some places. But then I added words to tighten up the story.

I write in sort of a Terry Brooks style. I wrote this book with the intent of having a complete epic story in one book. I don't think splitting it in two will work.

I know that few novelists debut with such large novels. Brooks did. Goodkind and Martin did. But it's a different day.

So...do I just approach publishers or should I strive to find an agent? I know finding an agent to handle such a big novel will be tough.

I do not want to self publish this one. Went that route.

You likely edit it so it's saleable.

It's possible you've got a tight, well-paced, 165,000-word book, but it's unlikely. Have you put an excerpt up in SYW? I'd start there, then move to betas. Even if it isn't overwritten in any way, you still may have to lose some of it to make it saleable.

Karen Junker
08-06-2014, 07:00 AM
There ARE modern epic fantasy authors who sell books over the average 120K word count. But they are rare -- I know Django Wexler sold his first book at over 200K but his agent pitched it to editors without mentioning word count. His editor actually made him cut it to 193K.

Still.

I have lots of experience in helping people cut their books. I may be able to look at a chapter and give you some ideas (and more if you think I can help you). PM me.

Or, take a look at a book called The 10% Solution by Ken Rand -- you can order it on the internet -- I know many people who have read it and used it to cut their work in ways you wouldn't think of.

Old Hack
08-06-2014, 12:04 PM
A book which might be difficult to sell is going to need an agent more than a book which is probably going to be easier to sell.

Put some of it up in Share Your Work so that you can get feedback on how clearly and tightly it's written, because chances are you'll be able to cut it back dramatically--even if you're doubtful that you can. If your work really is tight and clean and beautiful then posting it to SYW will confirm that, and calm some of your worries.

If it is well-written at this length, and it has a good story arc and plotline, then you should have confidence in your work. Query away. Just don't mention the word-count at this stage.

InkStainedWench
08-06-2014, 03:35 PM
Old Hack, is it acceptable to query without mentioning word count? Seems to me an agent would think, "Uh-oh; must be too long/too short."

Barbara R.
08-06-2014, 04:02 PM
To be frank: I'd bet dollars to donuts that your book doesn't need to be nearly so long. There could be a lot of fat to be trimmed---chronic repetition, unnecessary backstory, scenes and dialogue that go on too long---or it could be a problem of too many subplots. If the first is the problem, posting a section on this forum will most likely reveal it. If the latter, then those unneeded subplots need to be surgically removed. Fresh eyes could help.

Osulagh
08-06-2014, 04:17 PM
Old Hack, is it acceptable to query without mentioning word count? Seems to me an agent would think, "Uh-oh; must be too long/too short."

I too would like to know this. While my word count doesn't match Pete's and I'm making all the necessary cuts and shortenings (to the point that I worry that I'm going too fast within a 150k Epic Fantasy) and I'm sure my writing and opening pages are strong enough to get a partial, I just don't want to be auto-rejected because of numbers.

Old Hack
08-06-2014, 04:42 PM
First: listen to Barbara R. I have almost always been able to shorten the books I've edited, often by a significant degree. Get your book as polished and tight as you can.

Once you've done that, if it is still long but your many beta-readers and critiquers agree that it's tightly written and compelling, then yep. You can query without mentioning your word-count. This goes against standard advice: but I have seen it done successfully. Include the first five pages with your query if you can (so, if it's asked for; and if it's not specified that you shouldn't), so that you can grab the agent's attention with your brilliant writing.

Or you can query, say you know it's too long, but justify it somehow. If your query is brilliant and your writing even better, you can get away with it. But it is a risk, and one to be avoided if possible.

Aggy B.
08-06-2014, 05:25 PM
I know that few novelists debut with such large novels. Brooks did. Goodkind and Martin did. But it's a different day.


Just had to point out that if you're referring to G.R.R. Martin, he did NOT debut with a mammoth novel. He'd been writing for years (including earlier novels) before ASOFAI was conceived.

Filigree
08-06-2014, 05:40 PM
Please don't be coy and query agents without mentioning word count. They really don't like that. Be honest. Be ready to trim or split your mms at the agent's urging.

Sage
08-06-2014, 06:50 PM
What do you mean by "final draft"? Has it been to betas (I'm sure that at least one of them would have put it in Word and mentioned the word count)? Betas are excellent for pointing out scenes that you actually don't need.

Having cut 15K out of the novel I'm working on at an editor's request, I did so by replacing an entire section with a tighter version of itself, combining scenes, cutting scenes I never thought before I could cut but had realized I could, and then when I had 3-5K left to go, simply going through on a line-by-line basis and cutting every extraneous word or rewriting sentences or paragraphs to say the same things but more succinctly (And then I read through it aloud to make sure the voice was retained). Mine was at 85K, cut to 70K, and had already been significantly tightened before. So I'm sure with almost double that starting word count, you have even more that you can cut.

Becca C.
08-06-2014, 09:43 PM
What do you mean by "final draft"? Has it been to betas (I'm sure that at least one of them would have put it in Word and mentioned the word count)? Betas are excellent for pointing out scenes that you actually don't need.

Having cut 15K out of the novel I'm working on at an editor's request, I did so by replacing an entire section with a tighter version of itself, combining scenes, cutting scenes I never thought before I could cut but had realized I could, and then when I had 3-5K left to go, simply going through on a line-by-line basis and cutting every extraneous word or rewriting sentences or paragraphs to say the same things but more succinctly (And then I read through it aloud to make sure the voice was retained). Mine was at 85K, cut to 70K, and had already been significantly tightened before. So I'm sure with almost double that starting word count, you have even more that you can cut.

Seconding this. I'm in the process of doing the same thing for my agent. The MS started at 80k when I first wrote it, 64k when I was querying, and I've since taken it down to 56k. All through either cutting scenes that were unnecessary or boring, combining scenes that basically accomplished the same thing, and rewriting for succinctness. I'm sure it's possible for you to trim at least 20-30k this way.

Quickbread
08-06-2014, 11:43 PM
Seconding this. I'm in the process of doing the same thing for my agent. The MS started at 80k when I first wrote it, 64k when I was querying, and I've since taken it down to 56k. All through either cutting scenes that were unnecessary or boring, combining scenes that basically accomplished the same thing, and rewriting for succinctness. I'm sure it's possible for you to trim at least 20-30k this way.

And thirding this. I was going to suggest going through the whole thing and listing every scene, with a summary of what its overall purpose is for the story. It's likely you'll find overlap, and each scene needs to do something unique and specific to advance the story. Combining and eliminating weak scenes will make what's left much stronger.

Barbara R.
08-07-2014, 06:27 PM
And thirding this. I was going to suggest going through the whole thing and listing every scene, with a summary of what its overall purpose is for the story. It's likely you'll find overlap, and each scene needs to do something unique and specific to advance the story. Combining and eliminating weak scenes will make what's left much stronger.

Good idea. That's something I do while writing, though it can be useful in editing too. If a scene doesn't achieve multiple goals, it's unneccessary. So any scene whose sole purpose is to convey backstory, for example, should be cut. Ditto any scenes that exist only to establish characterization or get the character from point A to point B. Whatever is useful in those scenes can be woven into other scenes that have more raison d'etre.

Sage
08-07-2014, 07:06 PM
If a scene doesn't achieve multiple goals, it's unneccessary. So any scene whose sole purpose is to convey backstory, for example, should be cut. Ditto any scenes that exist only to establish characterization or get the character from point A to point B. Whatever is useful in those scenes can be woven into other scenes that have more raison d'etre.

This is a good way to look at it, although I'm not sure it's an absolute. But I know that when I write, I don't put in any scenes that don't seem necessary so saying to cut all scenes that don't achieve a goal is unhelpful to me. However, I found when I focused on cutting, that some scenes that seemed necessary and achieved a goal, could still be cut, that some other scene could achieve that goal (whether incorporating the goal or by mentioning the now-off-screen scene). There were scenes that I swore up and down that I needed, two versions ago. I didn't even like some of them. And then I realized how I could combine ideas, dialogue, etc. into other scenes and get rid of those.

Barbara R.
08-07-2014, 08:07 PM
This is a good way to look at it, although I'm not sure it's an absolute. But I know that when I write, I don't put in any scenes that don't seem necessary so saying to cut all scenes that don't achieve a goal is unhelpful to me.

Actually my advice is to cut scenes that don't achieve multiple goals. One's not enough. Scenes that don't have multiple purposes slow the book down and clog its arteries.

But of course you're right: Nothing is an absolute in writing. Whatever works, works.

Sage
08-07-2014, 08:18 PM
Actually my advice is to cut scenes that don't achieve multiple goals. One's not enough. Scenes that don't have multiple purposes slow the book down and clog its arteries.

Yes, that's why I was agreeing with you :D

Namatu
08-08-2014, 03:34 AM
If a scene doesn't achieve multiple goals, it's unneccessary. So any scene whose sole purpose is to convey backstory, for example, should be cut. Ditto any scenes that exist only to establish characterization or get the character from point A to point B. Whatever is useful in those scenes can be woven into other scenes that have more raison d'etre.Excellent advice. As Sage and you yourself noted, it's not a 100% rule, but it's an excellent guide to gauge the effectiveness of your scenes when you're trying to tighten your prose.

To the OP, in addition to the other good suggestions you've received here, I'll ask if you've let the novel sit for awhile. Coming back to it with truly fresh eyes allows you to see where more condensing can occur.

PeteDutcher
08-08-2014, 07:59 AM
You likely edit it so it's saleable.

It's possible you've got a tight, well-paced, 165,000-word book, but it's unlikely. Have you put an excerpt up in SYW? I'd start there, then move to betas. Even if it isn't overwritten in any way, you still may have to lose some of it to make it saleable.

How big an excerpt could I post? I was thinking the first 3-4 chapters maybe?

PeteDutcher
08-08-2014, 08:02 AM
There ARE modern epic fantasy authors who sell books over the average 120K word count. But they are rare -- I know Django Wexler sold his first book at over 200K but his agent pitched it to editors without mentioning word count. His editor actually made him cut it to 193K.

Still.

I have lots of experience in helping people cut their books. I may be able to look at a chapter and give you some ideas (and more if you think I can help you). PM me.

Or, take a look at a book called The 10% Solution by Ken Rand -- you can order it on the internet -- I know many people who have read it and used it to cut their work in ways you wouldn't think of.

I trimmed it down by 3,500 words so far...but I might take you up on that if the offer still stands?

cornflake
08-08-2014, 08:03 AM
How big an excerpt could I post? I was thinking the first 3-4 chapters may?

I don't know how long your chapters are. Start with like 2000 words or so.

You'll see how much people can tell from that.

PeteDutcher
08-08-2014, 08:05 AM
To be frank: I'd bet dollars to donuts that your book doesn't need to be nearly so long. There could be a lot of fat to be trimmed---chronic repetition, unnecessary backstory, scenes and dialogue that go on too long---or it could be a problem of too many subplots. If the first is the problem, posting a section on this forum will most likely reveal it. If the latter, then those unneeded subplots need to be surgically removed. Fresh eyes could help.

I do have subplots...but I think they are important to the story. Usually, to introduce a character to the reader just before he joins the main characters or something like that.

PeteDutcher
08-08-2014, 08:09 AM
Seconding this. I'm in the process of doing the same thing for my agent. The MS started at 80k when I first wrote it, 64k when I was querying, and I've since taken it down to 56k. All through either cutting scenes that were unnecessary or boring, combining scenes that basically accomplished the same thing, and rewriting for succinctness. I'm sure it's possible for you to trim at least 20-30k this way.

I have seen agents complain when novels are fewer than 90L words. Of course, it was fantasy and science fiction adult.

quicklime
08-08-2014, 05:16 PM
I do have subplots...but I think they are important to the story. Usually, to introduce a character to the reader just before he joins the main characters or something like that.


1. what you think only matters as an absolute if you are only writing for yourself. Otherwise, it is product. If you're selling a product, you either meet expectations of your customer, or do not sell. That ain't sexy, but it is a truth worth cozying up to.

1A. Point 1 does not automatically equal "whoring oneself," "selling out," or anything of the sort.

2. What you're talking about is indeed done....in The Stand, for instance, but if you know you have an issue, it seems a pretty easy fix: King is known for Bloat. And was a phenom before he ever tried to pitch The Stand. If you aren't Stevie, and you already know this stands to be a problem, though....you really can cut subplots. That said, from this post I'm wondering how much you can cut just by eliminating your "intro to a bit-player" chapters. If I read your last bolded bit correctly, you have entire chapters dedicated to non-MCs before they meet the MC, which could be shortened to introducing the bit-players when the MC actually meets them, and adding just enough detail along the course of their interaction to show us who they are, and what their motivations are and stuff--right now it sounds like those chapters are essentially back-story, tbh.

Sage
08-08-2014, 05:27 PM
How big an excerpt could I post? I was thinking the first 3-4 chapters maybe?

Start with a single chapter (and it depends on how long the chapters are). Look at how much other people in SYW are posting. In fact, go read crits there, and you'll probably learn some tightening just by doing that.

I learned to tighten my prose in my first trip into SYW. Someone was immensely helpful in pointing out what words I could skip or how to consider rewriting something to say the same thing with fewer words. That was a single chapter, maybe less, and it's a lesson I learned well. That novel--my first--was 160K, and I got it down to 130K, and that was without deleting any backstory (though I recognize now that I probably could have).

mayqueen
08-08-2014, 06:18 PM
I do have subplots...but I think they are important to the story. Usually, to introduce a character to the reader just before he joins the main characters or something like that.


That said, from this post I'm wondering how much you can cut just by eliminating your "intro to a bit-player" chapters. If I read your last bolded bit correctly, you have entire chapters dedicated to non-MCs before they meet the MC, which could be shortened to introducing the bit-players when the MC actually meets them, and adding just enough detail along the course of their interaction to show us who they are, and what their motivations are and stuff--right now it sounds like those chapters are essentially back-story, tbh.

Ditto quicklime. A chapter or scene purely to introduce a side character before the MC meets them is the kind of chapter/scene only doing one thing that should be cut.

PeteDutcher
08-08-2014, 10:48 PM
It's difficult for me to explain, which isn't a good thing, I know.

Here's an example of what I meant by introducing new characters in different scenes.

There is a prophet near death that plays a key secondary role. In this story, when a prophet is near the end of his years, he chooses a disciple to mentor and take his place...passing the torch, so to speak. When he dies, his power of understanding prophecy and receiving prophecy is passed on to the disciple.

In this case, the prophet is human. The disciple is of a troll-like race (first time in this world a member of the race will become a prophet).

When the story starts, the two are apart because the prophet sent her (the troll-like disciple) on a mission of research and to recruit another character into the quest.

The third character is a trapper deep within the mountain and his survival skills will be needed. They have never met (prophecy directs the prophet). So in the middle of the night, the troll-like disciple appears at the trapper's campfire. The trapper, of course, is a little freaked at first.

The interaction demonstrates several key points. The Disciple is born of a race that is judged harshly and feared. The trapper is a loner and not prone to joining any sort of group endeavors.

(now my wife has been interrupting me for 20 minutes and I have lost my train of thought,lol)

elinor
08-08-2014, 11:03 PM
It's difficult for me to explain, which isn't a good thing, I know.

Here's an example of what I meant by introducing new characters in different scenes.

There is a prophet near death that plays a key secondary role. In this story, when a prophet is near the end of his years, he chooses a disciple to mentor and take his place...passing the torch, so to speak. When he dies, his power of understanding prophecy and receiving prophecy is passed on to the disciple.

In this case, the prophet is human. The disciple is of a troll-like race (first time in this world a member of the race will become a prophet).

When the story starts, the two are apart because the prophet sent her (the troll-like disciple) on a mission of research and to recruit another character into the quest.

The third character is a trapper deep within the mountain and his survival skills will be needed. They have never met (prophecy directs the prophet). So in the middle of the night, the troll-like disciple appears at the trapper's campfire. The trapper, of course, is a little freaked at first.

The interaction demonstrates several key points. The Disciple is born of a race that is judged harshly and feared. The trapper is a loner and not prone to joining any sort of group endeavors.

(now my wife has been interrupting me for 20 minutes and I have lost my train of thought,lol)

You don't need an introductory chapter for this at all. In fact, it takes away the impact of the meeting if you give it any lead in. Start with the trapper, start with his own "normal mode" that gets interrupted by "OH CRAP!" as scary character shows up. We follow his trail of thoughts, wondering why he happens to be so afraid and shocked by this appearance - we don't know why he's so afraid -> which means we keep reading, to find out more. With the introductory chapters you're killing the anticipation/surprise before it can sprout leaves.

Through the disciple arguing with the trapper about help on this quest, the audience/reader will already have plenty of opportunity to learn about what's going on. Their dialogue and interactions as they both try to get what they want and succeed or not, through that conflict you can show the reader the background.

quicklime
08-08-2014, 11:06 PM
pete, there's 2 concerns at play I think:

1. CAN you tighten it? Folks here haven't seen the work, but I suspect you can. Part general experience, part some of your posts including QLH, part the general belief ANY story can be tightened, even if it sometimes is to the detriment of the story.....

2. Are you WILLING to tighten it?


we can help with the former, the latter is entirely on you. your word count may still get you an agent, too. nobody can say for certain. That said, even in your example one could lose the survival skills needed bit. Or start with them on an icy mountain, and a single line somewhere "Trollella thought of the first time she'd met the trapper, the fear and revulsion as he crouched at the edge of his campfire--now he was holding to her like a tick. Funny how icy granite and a thousand-wheel drop made a guy cozy up to a cave-beast..." It would alter the story, but sometimes that's what is needed. you HAVE choices....

There is a fine and dicey line between what is needed for the story, and what is just wanted, really badly. You'll have to decide where you are in that, but again, SYW may help.

Old Hack
08-08-2014, 11:09 PM
Pete, that can all be explained in a few sentences of dialogue when the trapper and the disciple meet. It doesn't require several scenes in which it's all explained.

PeteDutcher
08-08-2014, 11:15 PM
You don't need an introductory chapter for this at all. In fact, it takes away the impact of the meeting if you give it any lead in. Start with the trapper, start with his own "normal mode" that gets interrupted by "OH CRAP!" as scary character shows up. We follow his trail of thoughts, wondering why he happens to be so afraid and shocked by this appearance - we don't know why he's so afraid -> which means we keep reading, to find out more. With the introductory chapters you're killing the anticipation/surprise before it can sprout leaves.

Through the disciple arguing with the trapper about help on this quest, the audience/reader will already have plenty of opportunity to learn about what's going on. Their dialogue and interactions as they both try to get what they want and succeed or not, through that conflict you can show the reader the background.

I actually did start with the trapper. He doesn't argue with the troll-like disciple...she's big, green, brutish and scary, plus it being dark. If anything he wonders if she is trying to trick him back to some lair to eat him.

The irony is that her species is in no way related to trolls. It is a stereo-type due to their appearance.

Before the two of them join the others on the quest, one of the humans involved makes a rude comment about the body odor of her species to the prophet, who knows his disciple will be joining them.

The disciple is a character who will be a main character in future stories, because the prophets live twice as long (a gift for serving).

PeteDutcher
08-08-2014, 11:16 PM
Pete, that can all be explained in a few sentences of dialogue when the trapper and the disciple meet. It doesn't require several scenes in which it's all explained.

It is explained in one scene. By a separate set of scenes, I meant apart from the main character in one individual scene (when the disciple approaches the trapper).

I could have been more clear one that.

malamute
08-09-2014, 04:33 PM
Please don't be coy and query agents without mentioning word count. They really don't like that. Be honest. Be ready to trim or split your mms at the agent's urging.


Yep agree, if its tight with every word counting and you can't trim it, think of splitting it.

elinor
08-09-2014, 07:28 PM
I still think a detailed synopsis should help you figure out what you can trim. Anything that doesn't directly affect the major plot is something that should be potentially on the chopping block.

hikarinotsubasa
08-10-2014, 09:18 AM
Seconding what others have said... it's LIKELY that you'll be able to cut it down to 100-120k, a more sellable length for a debut fantasy.

My first draft was 148,000 words.
Started sending to beta readers at 111k.
Started querying at 109.
Revised based on rejections to 104.
Revised again based on helpful rejections to 88k.
Signed with an agent. :)
(Not fantasy... you're probably fine with more than 88k. ;) )

I didn't cut any characters or subplots... I did cut SCENES that weren't necessary, and a LOT of redundant descriptions.

Not actual examples from my book, but things like cutting "that" from something like: "the woman that he had met the other night" (well, I'd probably really cut that down to "the woman from the other night" or something... even shorter! Just playing around with specific wording.)

Or cutting something like "The cherries were red and juicy, the juice dribbling down his chin as he greedily dug in" to "Cherry juice dribbled down his chin as he dug in." (If the cherries were NOT red you'd need to mention it, otherwise that can be inferred. No need to say "juice" AND "juicy," and "greedily" can be inferred.)

...forgive my bad examples, but I hope that gives you an idea of some ways to trim a couple thousand words without necessarily cutting any characters or subplots (although, sometimes that needs to happen too).

Have you sent it to a beta reader? Someone with a sharp eye may be able to mark it up for you with cutting the word count specifically in mind!

Mr Flibble
08-11-2014, 04:29 AM
It is explained in one scene. By a separate set of scenes, I meant apart from the main character in one individual scene (when the disciple approaches the trapper).

I could have been more clear one that.


It is still a scene you don;t need, if you can make the later scene do all ot does (and you can -- I can see it pretty clearly even)

Each scene needs to do more than one thing-- if you are just introing,. or "just" anything else, it can be melded into another scene which can do two or more things

So, your scene were your trapper meets your "troll" -- why can it not do everything the earlier scene does AND what the later one does? That is, it intros your troll at the same time as introing your MC AND advancing the plot? Plus maybe some worldbuilding and atmosphere.

Readers do not need as much explanation as you think they do. Trust me, I have fallen into that trap myself...

Bolder
08-21-2014, 09:04 PM
yeah I would probably cut it in two like others have said.

CrastersBabies
08-22-2014, 08:02 PM
Martin already had a name as a writer when ASOIAF debuted. (Television credits as well.)

I'd say that 120k to 125k is your mark. 80k for a single book epic fantasy is too low, imho. For first in a series, sure.

My original manuscript for my current work in progress was 154k. It's taken time, but it's down to 136k now (and I WILL get it to 125k eventually). It really is a matter of learning where to cut and how to cut. For me, this meant cutting one of my 6 POV characters--a more peripheral character, but it saved me 12k. The rest of the reducing was simply cutting out redundancy and learning how to be efficient. For example, do I need that adjective + that verb? Or can I just find a more dynamic verb?

This is helpful. (http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?ie=UTF8&docId=1000661941)

You really have only two pragmatic options here:

1. Cut it down. Just do it.
2. Split it.

The less pragmatic (3rd) option is to go the Patrick Rothfuss route and enter a section of the novel into the Writers of the Future contest. That's what he did. He pulled out a section from Wise Man's Fear, gave it a "faux" ending and submitted it. (The "faux ending is important as they will not accept words without fully realized endings.) You do get to keep all rights.

It was by winning that contest (Quarter 2) that he was able to go to the week-long workshop and celebration and meet Kevin J. Anderson. Anderson asked for the manuscript then passed it on to his publisher and the rest is history. A back-door route, so to say. But the contest is controversial because of the L. Ron Hubbard connection. It's still the biggest contest of its kind in the world and has launched several authors' careers.

There might be other contests out there, but (again), it's kind of a Hail Mary.

megajo29
08-25-2014, 02:58 AM
Here's my own $0.02:

I don't pick up a book over 450 pages in the bookstore, unless it's by an author I adore. (This means I haven't read any of the GRR Martin books, and never intend to). I am not necessarily in the majority, but I do think I'm in a large minority. I think the publishers are quite aware of people like me. So aside from bloating their printing costs, a huge book also shrinks their potential readership. A double whammy.

Besides, I have yet to find a single book over 500 pages that couldn't have been cut to below 450. Books that big are verbose and self-indulgent. They have lots of irrelevant subplots, b/c their authors are so in love with their characters, or their writing, that they simply don't know when to stop. They put me to sleep.

Old Hack
08-25-2014, 10:17 AM
Books that big are verbose and self-indulgent. They have lots of irrelevant subplots, b/c their authors are so in love with their characters, or their writing, that they simply don't know when to stop.

I don't think that's always the case, but it often is. When it's not true, however, a long book can be absolutely wonderful.

oceansoul
08-25-2014, 12:03 PM
Here's my own $0.02:

I don't pick up a book over 450 pages in the bookstore, unless it's by an author I adore. (This means I haven't read any of the GRR Martin books, and never intend to).

My heart weeps for you. Honestly, it does. I'm looking at my bookshelf of favourites right now and most of those books are well over 450 pages.

George RR Martin is definitely one of my great loves, but I can't entirely dispute that sometimes he does go a bit overboard with descriptions. Still, I lap them up like a dying man in the desert.

However, one of the other books on my 'favourites' list that I adore - Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel is an example of terrific, tight, emotive prose. I don't even generally like books written in the first person but DAMN does that woman pull it off. The paperback copy I'm holding comes in at 485 pages. Please don't reject books as verbose just because of the page count. At least flip it open and read a few pages to check the prose!

Filigree
08-25-2014, 05:10 PM
Seconding Oceansoul. Having an arbitrary maximum length for books can divert readers from some really great books. Yeah, some could have been trimmed, while others should have been expanded. I'm more about the story quality. I'm reading an online serial right now that is probably two-thirds complete at 220K, and it's one of the finest fantasy/romance/thrillers I've ever seen.

mayqueen
08-25-2014, 09:43 PM
Oh god I'm Team Doorstopper all the way. I primarily read historical fiction, though, so I freaking love a book that will pull me into a character's world and keep me there for (fictional, not actual) years. But there's a difference between simply long and well-written long. I've read some novels over 450 pages that really could have been shorter.

THE LUMINARIES clocks in at like 900 pages, but Catton had a lot of credentials, a previous novel, and went on to win the Booker prize. I bought that one as an e-book because of my poor bum shoulder.

Smeasking
08-25-2014, 10:27 PM
I don't think that's always the case, but it often is. When it's not true, however, a long book can be absolutely wonderful.

I second this. My husband and I just had a discussion about this recently. Both of us are avid readers who can easily devour a 500 page novel in a few short days, as long as its interesting; and those are the stories that we usually wish were longer. Shoot, my husband won't even consider anything below 400 pages typically, because when he reads he wants to be immersed in another world--so he says, "The longer the book, the better." I'm less discriminative. I look for the book jacket that hooks me and then I read it, regardless of length; however, I also tend to expect that the book could've been longer to explain more things, and am usually unsatisfied by the end of it. So if it's 300 or less pages, I first check if its a series or stand alone, then go from there.

I was recently annoyed when looking for a quick stand alone--no mention of a series anywhere on it--and bought one that was 296 pages. I finished it in four hours, first hundred pages of protag doing a whole lot of nothing, but thinking--then I was beyond irritated when the story had just started to gain my interest at page 200 and it ended abruptly in the MIDDLE of a battle scene. As a reader, I was furious and it was a major letdown. As a writer, I was appalled. I felt it was a terrible cliffhanger gimmick, and boycott reading book two whenever it happens to get published. (Debut author).

I wrote my book with the reader in mind. I've cut down 13k so far, and am still finding ways to try and get it down to 120k for my debut urban fantasy (so I have another 15k to go). Cutting out words like "that" and replacing adverbs, among other great tips I got from this forum helped a lot. I also have backstory that was 10k of what I cut out. I shortened it, but may just cut it out altogether and just relay it through natural dialogue between characters sometime in book two.

Anyway, like everyone else mentioned - try SYW. And start with just a chapter. You as the author would know best about what should stay in your story, but having fresh and constructive eyes will help you out tremendously. So try SYW. JMO. Good luck! :)

CrastersBabies
08-25-2014, 10:35 PM
This is epic fantasy. I feel like this needs to be pinned somewhere on this thread. That's not to say that you want a bloated, scary monster. Game of Thrones (coming in at 298k words) was pretty freakin' tight. Especially compared to what followed.

Yep, Martin had a track record already. Nope, they aren't likely to publish that size book for debut authors. (I said "aren't likely," so it is possible, but boy, you better be Patrick Rothfuss amazing.)

I guess I could just say, "I avoid books over 731 pages. EXACTLY." Seems strange to me. I've never met an avid read that said, "Hmm, nawww, it's too many pages."

(I have the Emperor in my head from Amadeus, telling him, "There's just too many notes." Weird. Anyway...)

I would take readers off your plate when it comes to epic fantasy word count. Entirely. Think publishers. Think agents. That's your way in, IMHO.

And I will echo what another person said: you can ALWAYS cut. And if you're the type of person who can't let anything go because you absolutely 100% NEED IT (precious) then writing is not the business for you.

Hapax Legomenon
08-25-2014, 10:56 PM
I've never met an avid read that said, "Hmm, nawww, it's too many pages."

There's one book I've felt that way about... Johnathan Strange and Mr Norrell. Not exactly an epic fantasy, but it's a debut novel that clocks in at about 800 pages. I bought it because I'd heard so many great things about it and it was on sale in paperback at Target... but even in paperback the thing is a mammoth. I'd had a hard time reading more than a few pages of it.

"It's not you, it's me, baby. I'm just not ready for that kind of a commitment."

However I do think the problem is more the size than the actual length -- if it was the size of a GRRM trade paperback or if I had an ebook version of it I would have probably already finished the thing. Same with Android Karenina.

(Before you get your hopes up about Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norrell being a debut novel at over 300,000 words, it's very British and was published back in 2004. Pretty sure your market's different.)

megajo29
08-25-2014, 11:49 PM
It's great to see how many of you love long books. I suspected as much, since otherwise, GRRM couldn't have become a best-selling author.

For my part, I stick to my 450 page limit rule, b/c I simply don't have the energy to invest in something longer. I work in a technical field, and spend my days and w-e's reading research papers and technical books. When I switch to literature, it has to catch me fast. That rarely ever happens. (Btw, I did try to read the first GRRM book. It starts too slow for me.) So while I appreciate everyone's concern for my missing out on great books (I'll check out your rec's), the fact is I am difficult to entertain. I've been known to walk out of blockbuster movies b/c I found them boring.

(The only long books I've read in recent times are the Harry Potter ones. But by the time the monster volumes arrived - from the 4th one on - I was already heavily invested in the characters so I bought the bricks. Then read them and wondered if the editor was asleep at the helm. Still loved the books, but they'd've been lots better with proper trimming.)

PeteDutcher
10-16-2014, 06:41 AM
I trimmed 25,000 words off the manuscript. It's down to 140,000. Still a little big, but better than 165,000 words.

It's tight and clean.

My final draft of my Query Letter is ready.

All I have left is a synopsis.

JubbyO
10-18-2014, 03:33 AM
Studies found in self-published works that readers like stories to be very long. More sales for more words.

If a novel is too short <55k words or less, I feel it's a ripoff. Why spend $8 reading 150-200 pages when you can get that same price for 300 or more pages of a much more engrossing story? Also, I read 100-150 pages for grad school almost every day.


But I'm glad you've cut it down.

Unimportant
10-18-2014, 03:38 AM
Studies found in self-published works that readers like stories to be very long. More sales for more words.

If a novel is too short <55k words or less, I feel it's a ripoff. Why spend $8 reading 150-200 pages when you can get that same price for 300 or more pages of a much more engrossing story? Also, I read 100-150 pages for grad school almost every day.

Sure, but 140K words is going to work out to about 560 pages. At 165K, it would've been more like 660 pages. Publishers are often unwilling to consider books that long because they cost so much more to print and bind, and they take up too much room per copy on the shelf of bookstores.

Old Hack
10-18-2014, 11:45 AM
Studies found in self-published works that readers like stories to be very long. More sales for more words.

If a novel is too short <55k words or less, I feel it's a ripoff. Why spend $8 reading 150-200 pages when you can get that same price for 300 or more pages of a much more engrossing story? Also, I read 100-150 pages for grad school almost every day.

When people are surveyed they might say they prefer more words for their money. But this doesn't usually filter through to sales.

People don't buy books by weight: they buy them because they find the individual title interesting or compelling.

If you have two books to choose from and one is huge but doesn't sound very interesting, while the other is slighter but really captures your attention, you're going to take the second book, not the first.

If it were true that readers always want longer books, trade publishers would be publishing much longer books.

Julz
10-22-2014, 05:47 AM
I'm late to this thread, but I wanted to chime in and say that recently Janet Reid posted (http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/2014/10/query-question-definitive-absolute-no.html) a blog about word count. According to her: "150K at a minimum. You can't do it right in less."

I did a quick google search for other agents' input and found much older posts which put the number a little lower, but still.. If 1 finds it acceptable, I bet more will too.

Old Hack
10-22-2014, 10:20 AM
I'm late to this thread, but I wanted to chime in and say that recently Janet Reid posted (http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/2014/10/query-question-definitive-absolute-no.html) a blog about word count. According to her: "150K at a minimum. You can't do it right in less."

It's always good to quote enough to give a full context:


Sweeping, epic fantasy: 150K at a minimum. You can't do it right in less.

Other genres require different word-counts. Those of you who are reading along and wondering what extent your book should run to should read the blog post for yourselves.

Colleen Lindsay wrote a blog post about this some time back which is often quoted, but I can't find it now. Others might do better.

quicklime
10-22-2014, 04:17 PM
Sure, but 140K words is going to work out to about 560 pages. At 165K, it would've been more like 660 pages. Publishers are often unwilling to consider books that long because they cost so much more to print and bind, and they take up too much room per copy on the shelf of bookstores.

I bolded the part that seems to get lost in these arguments.

"I don't mind long books, and doubt many readers do" is ultimately immaterial: if you aren't self-pubbing or e-pubbing, many publishing houses do.

Doesn't mean they never take longer works, but it DOES mean there is a hurdle that gets higher and higher with pagecount as you leave their guideline ranges.

Jennifer_Laughran
10-22-2014, 08:59 PM
To leapfrog onto Quicklime's post - another thing that is often forgotten is TRANSLATION. We would like to sell your books in many other markets. What you may not realize is, a book that is 650+ pages in the US -- which is quite long and difficult to manage already -- may suddenly turn to 900+ pages when translated into, for example, German.

Which means that the German edition will likely have to be broken up into two books so that the binding will actually be able to contain the text without breaking. . . or, you know, they just won't buy it.

You may say, so what... but Germany is one of the largest markets outside the US, and actually can be quite a good source of revenue for whomever holds the rights. They'd likely balk at a book this big, and the way they go will often be an indicator of the way the rest of the world will go.

Unimportant
10-22-2014, 10:55 PM
What you may not realize is, a book that is 650+ pages in the US -- which is quite long and difficult to manage already -- will turn to 900+ pages when translated into, for example, German.

Holy crap, I had no idea! That is utterly fascinating. (Well, to me, in a pre-morning-coffee, don't-speak-German kind of way.)