August 20, 2016 at 9:57 am #2765
Hi Ms. Dennard,
I wanted to hear your opinion on the actual length of a story/book.
I haven’t published anything (yet) but I do write stories myself, and although I’m rather good at guessing how long the story will be in the end, I’ve never worried about it if it does turn out to be longer than normal. But over time I’ve read many posts and articles by authors who claim that their story is “much longer than they’d anticipated” (often accompanied by the unspoken complaint that they wish it wasn’t), or they just say it’s “too long”. A number of them then continue about how worried they are that their editor and/or publisher will complain about it too.
Since I haven’t published anything (yet), I have always thought of this as rather weird. Only recently I read a post by an author who said that her story was so long – it was about 100.000 words, which I believe is about the same as 400 pages in a book. Don’t get me wrong, 400 pages isn’t nothing, of course, but in my opinion it’s also not too big. Your book, “Truthwitch”, is also longer than that, and I can name several others.
So I was wondering if many authors have some kind of unofficial, invisible limit of words they want to put into a story, or if the publishers and/or editors have. Only a few weeks ago another author finished a book, saying she’d been getting worried because the book was now “almost 350 pages” long, which was a bit longer than the previous books in her series, but the way she said it made me think she was somehow worried about that. I understand that, in the case of George R.R. Martin for example, you get a bit worried when you hit the 1000-page barrier :-), but there’s a difference between 1000 and 350. She even posted a few extra chapters from her previous book (length: about 330 pages) which hadn’t made it into the final version. But those chapters only amounted up to 20 extra pages. So, I thought, what’s the big deal between 330 or 350?
My question, therefore, is this: Can you explain why authors sometimes seem scared when their books turn out to be longer than they anticipate, even if it’s only just a little longer, and does it have anything to do with the publisher and/or anyone else involved in the process?
Thanks for your reply!August 24, 2016 at 8:35 pm #2766
Thanks for the question! You know, some writers worry about length. Others don’t. There are certainly genre…Well, I wouldn’t say rules, but expectations. Adult fantasy, for example, tends to have MASSIVE books with >200,ooo word lengths being pretty normal. In YA, most books hover between 70,000 words and 90,000 (though clearly, books like mine are closer to 120,000).
I always urge writers to write the story they want to write. Then, once you’re at a point where you feel it’s time to start querying agents or submitting for publication, THEN research the expected word counts for your genre. 🙂 You can always tighten or add in revisions. For example, Truthwitch was originally 160,000 words when I turned it in to my editor. But by the time it went to print, it was more like 117,000. 😉
Good luck and happy writing!
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