Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Something I Learned Recently About Publishing

So, I am really good at writing epics.

I always have been. When teachers asked us to write stories for class, most of the kids were asking how long it HAD to be, but my question usually was, "How long CAN it be?" I'm not a short story person. I have long plots that occasionally don't quite have an ending, but generally there's a vague idea in there.

So, when I was writing this most recent book, I was trying to figure out the stopping point for the first book. I wanted it to have a good conclusion, so if people wanted to stop after the first one, they would still feel like there was a resolution to conflict. However, I wanted the book to be really exciting, and, in my head, the real excitement only began after a certain point.

However, when looking up the word length for Harry Potter to see how long J. K. Rowling's first book was, I came across the following article that made a huge impact on my decision:
Story Length
Word Count and Story Length
If you are an aspiring writer, I recommend that you read this.

Basically, the article states that a huge reason that many stories are rejected by publishers and agents is the simple fact that the stories are too long.

He gave this simple guide for story length:
  • Short-short stories are under 2,500 words.
  • Short stories can range from 2,500 to 7,500 words.
  • Novellettes are from 7,500 to 20,000 words.
  • Novellas are from 20,000 to 50,000 words.
  • Novels are from 70,000 to 90,000 words.
Though he did add that Sci-fi/Fantasy can go up to 125,000 words long if it's not young adult.

Reading that, I quickly looked at my word count.I was at about 55,000 words. I was close to long enough where I was. That helped me pick my stopping point, and it wasn't where I had originally expected it to be, However, the more that I am writing to that goal, the more that I like this new stopping point.

It makes the first book about character development and relations while still providing plenty of action. I'm really enjoying how it is going. I'm not finished yet, but the goal is not too far away.

If you're struggling to publish, take a look at your word-count. As the author of the article says,
Beginning writers usually create a story that's just too long for a novel. But rejection letters rarely explain the reason the agent isn't interested in representing your work. Writers usually forget to think about how long the story needs to be. After all, agents won't bother trying to sell something that the publishers won't buy. Most of the time, the manuscript is too long.
There are exceptions to this, of course, but in general the first novels of established authors are much shorter than their subsequent novels. After they're established and have an audience, then they can go longer.

Hopefully this helps someone else. It sure helped me.

Good luck, writer friends. I'm praying for you!


  1. I use word count as a benchmark for everything. It only gets confusing when I tell someone how long my novels are by word count and they want to know page numbers. Sigh. It also depends on adult vs YA vs MG novels. The numbers you have there look more like YA novels, I've seen articles that say adult novels can go longer.

    1. This is funny, because I'd never really thought about word count outside of November. Thanks for your perspective!

  2. It's true. Oh man, I could say a lot about this. And typically, I stay within the golden rule of 85,000-110,000 (adult novels.)

    The funny exception to this rule is my epic fantasy. Let me tell you. I have tried to write it so many times, and keep it within 110,000, and failed abysmally each time... either things felt too rushed and frenetic, or I started too far into the story in order to cut out some words only it doesn't work, etc.

    So this time, when I wrote it, I took a deep breath and just wrote it, in the words it required. I trust myself, because I've got experience trimming my writing. ANd the version I have right now is not quite trimmed... Jeff and i were reading a segment of it yesterday and it was sooooo overwritten. I'll be slashing some words from there. But one thing I've had to conlcude is, this novel cannot be told in under 120,000 or even under 170,000 words. SO I'm praying an agent or publisher will overlook that.

    This article makes me feel a tad more hopeful: http://doggedlywriting.blogspot.com/2014/06/word-counts-and-debut-fantasy-novels.html

    It is about how conventional wisdom might not apply in the realm of epic fantasy.

    And let me say, that I also struggle to write short fiction. I have tried, and I'm not good at it. SOme would say that means I need to hone my skills, but I disagree. I am also a poet, so clearly, I'm good at keeping things short and sweet when I want to. I think for me, the short stories just don't hold much glamor. I write, primarily, for characters :) and characters don't get much opportunity to develop in a short story.

    1. I'm not good at short fiction either. Poetry is one of those things I don't share because it's too personal, and I can't let it out in public to be mocked. Thanks for sharing that website as well. It's good to hear from different people. I personally love bad guy dynamics, and it's hard to develop a really hateful relationship without a reason and a backstory. This also makes things longer.

      I'm rambling. Hopefully that makes sense.