Monday, February 6, 2012

A New Problem

Once upon a time I was a lengthy writer.

It started with a 96-chapter fanfiction (I was 15) that went on and on and on and had its own sequel. (Which is funny, since the purpose of the fanfiction was to create a sequel.)

Then I finished my first original book at 169,000 words. Even being epic fantasy, it's about 60k too long to be published under a newb's name.

Fortunately, at this time, I learned to condense, to stick to the real story and focus. My books started popping out between 95k and 108k. Perfect.

But, where I am now, I fear I've overcorrected the problem, and therefore have created a new problem.

I realize this as I reach the third act in CoT. The book is too short. WAY too short. As of right now, I'm guessing it will fall at 68k.

68K. My goal was 90k.

Prose revisions will, of course, lengthen the novel. I'll actually care about what I'm describing and put more effort into it, and that usually adds on a couple thousand words. But still, too short.

So, I'm compiling a list of tactics I could use to bring the book up to par. I may have to add in an entirely new viewpoint or weave in a new subplot (which would have to actually contribute to the story. Severe brainstorming ensues.) I don't plan on taking any action until after I've sent the book to my alpha readers and gotten some feedback. Heck, they might find some bizarre plot hole that an extra subplot could fix right up!

Granted, Vickie Motter did say once that an adult fantasy could be as low as 70,000 words. A number that surprised me, since I had always been told to aim for 120k. Still, I feel like I'm copping out as an epic fantasy author if my fifth novel is only 70k.

On the bright side, bookstores tend to like smaller novels. Saves on space.

What do you think?


  1. I don't know the specifics of your genre or your goals wrt getting published, but I've never been one to marry myself to word counts. Tell the story well and how you want, and whatever it comes out to, it comes out to.

    Slaughterhouse Five was like 45,000 words or something - nobody is complaining it's too short.

  2. Novellas are nice. But you already know I feel that way. ;-)

  3. If you are going for adult fantasy, 70K is a pretty good base number to work with. It's possible that in learning to cut, you've learned how to use strength in words instead of word count. Oftentimes, less is more.

  4. Yeah. What counts is the story. Not how many words it takes to tell it.

    Heck, i was re-reading Harry Potter and those books are LONG. To be honset, I found myself wondering why I was so obsessed with them when i was younger. there are such long stretches of time-- so many words-- where nothing really happens. lol

  5. Coming from a reader's perspective, I'd feel an epic fantasy was too short being under 100k. Most epic fantasy readers like the longer books... that's why they're all so darn long. Then again, some stories don't need to be so long. If you feel your story is completed, and as strong as you can make it, leave it be. Some of the best novels ever written are quite slim.

  6. I don't really know very much about word-length in epic fantasy novels; all I know is that if I REALLY get "into" a fantasy novel it doesn't matter how long it is!!
    Thanks for the comment on my blog-- I have been to see the Redwoods, I should have written about it! They were amazing.
    Out of curiosity, how'd you come across my URL? I'm glad you did because I think I'm going to enjoy reading your blog. And I believe it you: One day you WILL get a dog! :) They are the best.

  7. I think it is a little short, but if it's still short after you've put it through edits, why not try to market it like that? If it works like it's supposed to. :-D

  8. Wow, lots of comments!

    Personally, it's more about the story than the wordcount. If the story feels like it's missing things, then it probably is. However, I've read books--several fantasy books, even--shorter than 70k and was satisfied by the length.

  9. Yeah, I started out as an overwriter too. My first was something like 130k. Now I tend to write a little bit under but beef up with added scenes or character development. Good luck!

  10. Funny; I noticed the same thing in my last book. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but let's hope that it means our writing is getting better! :)