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Struggling with word count

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Bearman1, Oct 22, 2014.

  1. Bearman1

    Bearman1 Scribe

    Hi All,

    I am writing this because of a personal problem I am experiencing with my WIP and I am wondering if others have a similar struggle.

    I am currently 40k words into my first draft and it has dawned on me that I don't have a great deal of words left if I want to get this book published. I have been editing the chapters as I go, scrapping out what is not necessary and honing in the tale and yet I still think I am going to go way over 100k words.

    I am worried because I have seen that first time authors basically have no chance if there book is too long. But if I cut too much from the story then the quality and the characterisation is not going to be there, which defeats the object of the book.

    How do you guys go about finding a solution to this? And what are you experiences with handing a large manuscript to a publisher?

  2. psychotick

    psychotick Auror


    If you are set on going the trade route and finding an agent etc, than yes, to an extent you are restricted by what publishers require. However, they are often flexible for a good work. And 100k is nothing in epic fantasy.

    If you are looking at indie publishing, your word counts are completely open to you. I have novels ranging from 47k to 255k.

    In any case, from what you've said it's far too soon to be worrying about word counts. Finish your draft. Make it the best you can. Ignore all thoughts of word counts. The book should be as long or as short as it needs to be to tell your story the way you want to tell it.

    Cheers, Greg.
    T.Allen.Smith likes this.
  3. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    First I want to second everything psychotick said. Depending on the quality of your work, you may have options regardless of the length.

    But to tackle the question more directly, what are you basing your guess about word counts on? Do you have any kind of outline or pathway towards getting to the end? Are you using a lot of POVs?

    At 40k of 100k words, you should* be building up to a big point of conflict pretty quickly. If that's not where you are, you should see if you can articulate why and figure out how many words you're pacing yourself towards.

    *I use the word "should" very loosely.
  4. Bearman1

    Bearman1 Scribe

    I definitely understand what you are both saying about it being too soon to worry about this sort of thing but it is something that is affecting my writing. Ive got a bullet point outline for every event for the remainder of the story, which i'm going to follow theough with despite how many words that brings the novel to.

    At the moment, 40k words in, i have had 1 major change for one of my Characters and I am right in the middle of a major plot point for my other main character. I do feel like the story is flowing well which is why the word count is worrying me. I don't think i could possibly get this story in 100k to be honest.
  5. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    As I understand this is your first novel, right? I'm also on my first so my experience on the matter may be questionable, but I'll try anyway.

    My advice is to keep going until you're done.
    The main reason to keep going is that as you keep writing you will be improving your craft. You will refine your voice, your technique and your story telling skill. I'm about 100k into my first draft of my first novel and I've just started on the grand finale.

    The difference between my first chapter and my latest one is significant. My later chapters are - in my view - much better than the early ones. I've learned a lot since I started.
    I think it's likely that you will probably feel the same if you keep going. Once you get to the last chapter, whether it's 100k words away or 300k, you'll have a better understanding of your craft and what you're doing. That's when you go back and cut things out.

    If you start editing and modifying now you'll do it at your current skill level and the result will be according to that. If you do that, and then finish the rest of the story, you'll still improve your writing from that and you'll spot new errors in the early parts - the ones you spent time and effort editing once already.

    That's why my advice is for you to keep going - so that you can learn and improve. Then, once you're done, you cut out the parts that don't measure up to your new and higher standards.

    Again: I'm still on my first draft of my first novel - so the above is in many ways based on theory.

    I'd also suggest having a look at this article, written by CagedMaiden of the Article Team here on Mythic Scribes: Target Editing - A Time-Saving Strategy for Writers
    Bearman1 likes this.
  6. Butterfly

    Butterfly Auror

    Well, Fantasy tends to weigh in at around 120,000 words, so going over 100,000 shouldn't be an issue.

    Settle your mind... Here's a link to Tor and their submission guidelines. They are looking for completed Fantasy, Sci-fi or Horror books of between 95,000 and 150,000 words. Means you have room to manouevre.

    SUBMITTING A NOVEL TO TOR UK « Tor Books Tor Books

    EDIT: Every publisher will have their own guidelines on an acceptable word count.
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2014
    Bearman1 likes this.
  7. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    I agree with what's been said.

    I'll also add if a book is good enough, it's good enough regardless of length. If a publisher/agent thinks they can make a buck off the story, they will tell you what changes they want you to make. This includes chopping word count.

    Finish the story, and worry about length later. You'll have a much better understanding of the story once it's finished, and it may turn out making cuts to meet length won't be such a big deal.
  8. Bearman1

    Bearman1 Scribe

    Thanks for all the advice guys, looks like I am getting ahead of myself!

    Svrtnsse, thanks for the detailed post. It's good to hear from someone else on their first novel. I see what you mean about leaving the editing until last as theoritcally I should be a better writer then. That makes sense and it is something I have noticed (which makes reading through the initial chapters so hard not edit!).

    Butterfly, thanks very much for the link, it's really insightful to see exactly what Tor are looking for. If they are OK with 150,000 works then I am going to assume most publishers/agents will feel the same.

    For now I am going to finish the first draft and then jump right into editing!
  9. FarmerBrown

    FarmerBrown Troubadour

    As someone who just self-published a 160k fantasy, I can tell you that when you edit you will probably find yourself trimming rather than expanding, especially if you're sticking to your outline, so that will shave off a few K easily. I'm glad you're not worrying about word count now...it's not worth the mental stress! Just finish, edit, rinse, repeat ;-) Best of luck!
  10. BronzeOracle

    BronzeOracle Sage

    The advice I've heard from professional writers is to write the first draft from the heart, as the story and characters come to you. Then its a big task of editing for the second draft and there you can think about what you want to keep out. I agree with what the guys have said above, by the end of the first draft you've done a lot of writing and will have learnt a lot so you'll have a much better perspective of what needs to stay and what needs to go.
  11. Pamela Scalf

    Pamela Scalf Acolyte

    I'm not sure how others do it, but my experience has been that once I've finished a story I discover I should have started 2-3 chapters into it. I take a big pair of scissors and voila!.... new beginning.
  12. sankunai

    sankunai Scribe

    See I have trouble cutting things out of my novel. I've cut out scenes, sure, but that's about it. I've completely re-done some chapters to make sure they go well with the novel, fix up the plot holes in them, etc, but still yet to completely remove a chapter.

    All my chapters seem to contribute to my novel in a big way, and I just can't see myself cutting entire chapters away from it.

    As for the words, for the OP, just write. The main thing is to finish the book :). Once that's finished, worry about your word count.
  13. K.S. Crooks

    K.S. Crooks Maester

    I think you should keep writing and only use the word count as a way to see how much you have written or to measure how much story-time each of your prominent characters is given. I don't think you should worry about the amount of words since some parts you think will be long may turn out to be short or not needed. Fantasy stories, especially those set in a different place need more words to establish the world to the reader.
    I like to edit at the end of every chapter, as it makes it less frustrating when the novel is done. But only for basic grammar, lightly for punctuation and making sure that things make sense. I will have someone help me do a more thorough edit at the end when I know the final tone of the novel. When I finished my first published novel it was 84 000 words. After the first round of editing it dropped to 82 000 words. In the end, it was a little over 86 000 words. Work on how you want things to sound and the message/emotions you are trying to get across to the reader...let the number of words it takes be much less important.

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