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Minimum length for fantasy

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Holoman, Aug 3, 2016.

  1. Holoman

    Holoman Troubadour

    I was wondering whether there is a rough, generally accepted minimum length for a fantasy novel? I am currently on vacation and writing quite a bit, but have just realised I am only 16k words in and am probably at the quarter point in my novel based on my outline. That would put the finished book at about 60k words. My writing is naturally fast-paced and I give the bare minimum info dumps I can get away with to build mystery but also because they can be boring.

    I had 100k in my mind to aim for before editing/cutting but not sure if I want to force in 40k of extra content if I do get to the end and it is 60k. Maybe I could push it to 80k. I am tempted to start adding in little side stories now as I go to beef it up, but it may just end up adding bloat I cut later.

    The whole novel follows one main character and forms part of a series.

    I'm a bit worried about it because I remember reading Discworld #1 and feeling it was underwhelming. Not sure how much that had to do with it only being 65k words though or I just didn't get into the world. It is popular though.

    Would readers or publishers feel it was too short for a novel? I do hope to go the trad publishing route with this.

    I guess a fall back could be to redo it as a YA. I have a couple of options how I could work that.
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2016
  2. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    I think it depends on your age category and genre. YA fantasy typically runs from 80K to 100K, while historical or epic fantasy can run longer than 100K. I think you'd be fine if you got it up to around 80K, possibly even 75K, but don't feel you have to force yourself up to 100K if that's not how your story goes.
  3. Don't try to force your book to be longer. If it's meant to be 60K, it's meant to be 60K. I would be worried about trying to make it longer resulting in lots of filler the readers don't care about. YA is usually longer than 60K as well, heck, even a lot of Middle Grade novels exceed that. A 60K fantasy novel will be a hard sell, though. 80k would be acceptable.

    Fantasy is usually longer because of the amount of world development you have to do and the typically large scale of the plot (by that, i mean the plot usually revolves around saving the world, not something that affects only the protagonist like winning best in show at a dragon show or something--WAIT! Story idea!) So...why does yours deviate? Is the plot just fairly straightforward? Are you especially sparse with description?
    kennyc likes this.
  4. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    What Ireth said. :) If you're writing for an adult audience, I'd say at least 65k. I do know authors who produce books at 75k and make a living but that's certainly not the norm. Most fantasy books are tomes. Mine don't go past the 65k mark but I write mostly short anyway. It's entirely up to you.
  5. Holoman

    Holoman Troubadour

    Well the world ending thing is the long term story, but the story line for the first book is self contained and smaller scale than the bigger story. Though it links in, I don't really want to go much into the bigger badder stuff as it wont be resolved at the end of the first book.

    The magic of the world I think is fairly basic and easy to get across. The plot is sort of straight forward but has a big twist in the middle which I'll have to set up right. I want the story to be about good characters mainly, so I suppose I can add in more character development scenes. I'm very sparse with description, I generally have to add it in later, and tend to focus on one thing vividly and have concurrent action with it too.
    DragonOfTheAerie likes this.
  6. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    A bit contrary to the general sentiments expressed thus far, but many years ago, 60 - 70,000 words was the norm for fantasy novels, 200 pages, give or take.

    As of late, I have been reading some (Lovecraftian) niche novels, ranging from so-so to pretty good quality wise that also check in at 60-70,000 words.
  7. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

    Maybe what you have is a long novella-length work, and that's the right length for the plot/storyline.

    They (novellas) are an easier sell than they about a decade back, with the solid rise of ebooks. Printing a novella for distribution wasn't considered efficient, among other things.

    So, if it ends up shorter than 60,000 words...that's not a horrible thing.
  8. Russ

    Russ Istar

    I don't know about readers but you are going to struggle to sell a 60k novel to a traditional publisher, even small press, these days.
  9. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

    The scope of the novel (how ambitious it is) is going to be an important factor. If it's just the hero going on a short quest, like a Conan type story, then a smaller word count would be more acceptable.
  10. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Yeap. This is absolutely right. Length is the only complaint I have about the fantasy genre. Reading and writing tomes is hella annoying. So depending on what the OP wants to do, Russ's point is certainly something to keep in mind. And if you're going for Indie, pretty much the same applies. I see novellas doing well in certain fantasy subgenres but most best-sellers are in the 100k range.
  11. If it's the first of a series as you said, you could try introducing some of the subplots from subsequent books earlier in the story. You could reveal some information earlier. You could introduce hints of that "bigger, badder stuff."

    A first book stands on its own, sure, but I would think it would have to set up the over-arching plot of the entire story.

    You could also try putting more twists in the plot. For example, maybe an escape, instead of succeeding, goes wrong. Maybe someone gets grievously injured. Maybe the main characters get separated. Make things worse for them. It's hard to go wrong with that.
  12. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    If what you have is a novella, you might try looking for ezines to publish you.

    Truthfully, though, you need to get someone to look at your work as soon as possible before you make any decisions.
    Russ likes this.
  13. Russ

    Russ Istar

    Devor makes a good point.

    On a humorous note, my wife had finished her now sold first novel and I think it came in at around 5k less words than she and some people advising her thought was ideal. She was brainstorming about how to get it to that "ideal" length and I told her:

    "Just give your protagonist a stutter."

    Didn't go over very well at the time.
    Demesnedenoir likes this.
  14. Hahahaha! I have a character with a stutter and writing it in gets exhausting. I keep forgetting to include it so he has large sections of dialogue written normally because I just forgot.
  15. TheCatholicCrow

    TheCatholicCrow Inkling

    It might be coming up short for a few different reasons. It could be that your pace is too quick and you're rushing through events. It could be that you need another subplot. It could be that you are lacking in prose or description. There's nothing wrong with a more direct style (it works better in some genres than in others, for instance, Crime Pulp) but generally Fantasy readers want to be swept up with a balance of detail and action. You could even slow the action down a bit for more character development. If it has a non-earth setting, you need to take a bit of time explaining exactly what that means. (Along with more characters and complex story lines, it's one of the reasons Fantasy is expected to be on the longer end... if you set a Realistic Fiction book in WWII Germany, it'll require a lot less detail since most of us are generally familiar with the laws of physics, human limitations, and the general setting. If it's set on the magical island of Klaxonberry you'll need to give more information to the reader to explain precisely what that means and whether or not the people/creatures there are bound by pesky things like gravity or taxes.)

    I suggest that you don't even think about that at this point. Finish the first draft first. The next time through you might find that several scenes need to be slowed down, split up, or just have extra scenes added in altogether. One of the books I'm working on right now had a first draft of 55K words. By the time I finish the second draft it will be closer to 75K and after the third draft, I'll eliminate filters and pare down the prose so it'll probably end up closer to 60 - 70K (not a Fantasy book so I'm not too concerned). The word count fluctuates and when you get to the next portion, you might decide to take some time to flesh out a character's backstory, introduce a new character or explore a new subplot ... (unless you reject rewrites) what you end up with almost certainly won't reflect the word count of the first draft. Basically, no need to stress about that at this point.

    Another option is to break up the three acts and create (instead) a short story series. Hope this helps!
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2016
  16. FatCat

    FatCat Maester

    Philip k Dick turned scifi on its head with short stories dealing with singular concepts. It all depends on what you're trying to say. Three book epic with no production credentials, good luck.
  17. bugbear

    bugbear Dreamer

    The think is, once you start proofreading / reviewing your story, you will realize you need to add more details or explain some scenarios for it to make sense. So, my suggestion is, do not ruin your flow. Keep writing. Once you do over, you'll have a lot of time and opportunity to expand. Make sense?
  18. Jess

    Jess Dreamer


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