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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Novel Length

   
Author Topic: Novel Length
Tani
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What is a reasonable length for a first fantasy novel? This isn't epic fantasy, more along the lines of dark fantasy.

No doubt this question has been asked before, but I can't seem to find a consistent answer. Perhaps there isn't one.

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Foste
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Ah yes, this question is like nifty science. There are many correct answers. First of all, a book needs to be as long as it needs to be (how's that for vague answers?). But if this is the first novel you intend to sell I'd say go for 80k - 100k words. That's what most agents say. See, the thing is most publishers don't want to gamble with bajilion word novel from a new author.

Has it happened before? Yes. Case in point: Patrick The Man Rothfuss.

Does this make my advice look fumbling useless and rambly?
Pretty much so.

Have you finished the novel or are you still working on it?

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Meredith
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It depends in part on the audience.

Middle Grade (10 to 14 year olds) around 50k

Young Adult around 80k

Regular around 100k

That said, you can always find exceptions, even first novel exceptions. But those are general rules of thumb.

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MattLeo
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I agree with Foste. For selling books on paper through a bricks-and-mortar store, it's simple economics. A 200K word novel cost twice as much to print, transport and stock as a 100K novel, but from an unknown author it won't command a penny more in price. 90K - 100K words is an unremarkable length; not so short that it doesn't look like a real book, but not so long that it's death-by-spreadsheet.

What to shoot for depends on whether you tend to come in high or low on word count.

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Owasm
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If you intend on self-publishing an e-book, then the ranges increase. You can find books of all lengths in all genres. In fact, for me, it has become necessary (on Kindle) to look at the length in KB in order to get an idea of book length.

There are some authors that split up a 120,000 word fantasy into three parts and sell a 'trilogy' of 40,000 words apiece.

Plus there are short stories and novelettes published without any indication that they are significantly smaller than a novel.

As a rule of thumb, Meredith's definition is accurate enough.

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extrinsic
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For novel length, conside audience customs and habits. The average reading rate is one hundred fifty words per minute. That's two minutes for a standard published page. How much time does the target audience for the novel budget for reading?

A hundred-thousand-word novel at average reading speed requires eleven hours to read. Do the readers read for eleven hours straight in one sitting? Do they read in two stittings? Do they read in two-hour or one-hour or half-hour blocks? Do they read when they can set aside a few minutes at a time?

Passionate readers generally read in four-hour blocks, though two-hour and one-hour blocks run a close place. Therefore, write a novel to suit readers' comfort zones. Seventy-two thousand words is a low-end average, or two four hour sttings split by the climax act. If the novel is a twelve-hour novel, three sittings, it's 108,000 words.

Younger audiences usually take shorter reading spans. Older, longer.

One might even go so far as to structure a novel's plot to suit readers who read in half-hour increments, which would also suit readers who read in longer sittings. A seventy-two-thousand-word novel would take eight hours, or divide into sixteen half-hour portions. A sixteen-part structure would follow a straightforward five-act structure with sixteen scenes each divided into a chapter or subchapter of 4,500 words, or about the average length of short stories.

[ March 25, 2012, 02:50 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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MattLeo
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As for ebooks, the happy accident of the 90K-110K word paper novel that it's about as small as a novel can get and really give the reader a novel reading experience. It gives you room for satisfying characterization and plot complication without so much room that you're tempted to put too much in, and kill the momentum of the story.

So I'd say it still makes sense to shoot for that range, even though you might have a story you want to tell that's going to be 200K words long. Save the epic for later. When you can write a good 100K word story, then you know you can make every one of the 200K words count. You'll have practiced the art of cutting things out of the manuscript that you love, but don't serve the story.

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Tani
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Thanks. These answers help.

The bare bones of my novel is around 70k, and fleshing it out will probably take it up to 100k. I was toying with the idea of adding a second story arc, but at the risk of adding another 50k I think I'll leave the plot as stands.

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Robert Nowall
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quote:
A 200K word novel cost twice as much to print, transport and stock as a 100K novel...
Dubious on the face of it. In particular, if a 200K-word novel was printed in a font half the size of that used for a 100K-word novel, they'd both be the same size, the same number of paper pages, the same weight. (And does data representing an e-book make your Kindle or Nook weigh any more one way or another?)

*****

Used to be 70K---seventy thousand words---was standard length, with some paperbacks going down to 50K or under, due to print restrictions and the need to fill a pre-set amount of pages. But that seems to have gone by the wayside.

*****

Of course this has been thrashed out here a couple or three times before. Couldn't spot it in a quick glance through the stuff from the last year, though...anybody else remember where one is?

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