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Author Topic: "Normal" length for a SF novel?
Member # 7664

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What's the current going length for a novel, Etiher SF or Medical Thriller?

I ask because as my novel nears completion, I did the word count of all the files the other day. It will need a good edit once I reach the finale and fill in all the gaps but I want to know if I should be aiming for cutting or adding or splitting into two works. I'm sure I'll do a little of both BTW.

Current count: 140,000 roughly...

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Member # 8329

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Sounds like a reasonable length for SF and roughly the length I'm aiming at for my current wip - most SF/F tends to be longer due to the burden of worldbuilding, and one has to be wary of blanket advice found on popular writing websites aimed at other genres where shorter works are the norm. My opinion anyway.
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Member # 5137

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What I hear about from the market is that 80-100k is the sweet spot for a new author, never before published (at novel-length.) An experienced/previously published author might have more leeway (mostly in LONGER length, shorter is generally straight genre stuff like cozy mysteries or children's lit like YA or middle-grade) Fantasy gets a bit more wiggle room as I think 120k is a somewhat standard length for fantasy, but more than that and there are cost considerations just in book size/amount of paper that make it harder for an editor to say yes to your first time novel. The conventional wisdom I've seen has said to aim for 80-100k for your first novel so as to not present any reasons why it might be hard for an editor to say yes.

Now in epublishing, the length matters little, and I think there's good space in that market for novellas (priced lower than novels) and other short works. And of course your big door-stopper 1000 page novels don't weigh any more on an ebook reader so they're a great use case for the ebook readers.

But your most important task is to finish that novel. Cut it if you feel like that's appropriate (most of us can stand to cut 10-20% from novels without losing flow) but worry about that after it's done. Getting over the "just finish the darn thing" hump is a limitation for many, once you're over that hump you can do ANYTHING. You have superpowers, as you've finished a novel!

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Member # 7977

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This is actually an issue I've always been wary of - I've long heard the sweet spot was 100-120K, which is a hard enough target to hit for me. My WIP of three years' labor is nearly complete at around 210K, and given the plot points I have left and average number of words per chapter, I expect to finish at 250K. Of course I plan to go after it with a hatchet before sending it off, but I wonder how much I can reasonably slim down.

Patrick Rothfuss's debut novel, The Name of the Wind, clocks in at something like 200K (I don't know the official count, but it's pretty thick), so it is possible, but then again his book was often lauded as one of the best new fantasy works of our generation. (Side note - the second book is finally coming out in March!)

Could I feasibly cut my book in half? I seriously doubt it. Is a length of 160-180K enough to get most agents to deposit the new heavy doorstop directly in the trash? Will they pull the plug on their printer after the first hour, curse loudly and the stupid n00b author and vow never to open an email from me again?

How far do you need to slice? I know there's fat to trim, but I don't see dropping more than 50% of a book and maintaining anything like a real flow. I'm sure there's at least one chapter in there I could excise in its entirety, but not that many of them. And I don't think disenvoweling ( --> dsnvwlng ) is an accepted practice for reducing page length.

Any thoughts?

[This message has been edited by micmcd (edited February 16, 2011).]

[This message has been edited by micmcd (edited February 16, 2011).]

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Member # 8368

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Well, as said before, the first thing is to finish it.

Yours, btw, in my opinion, is very, very good.

Then, get more readers who can read it straight through, in order. (Potential readers: It's very, very good. You should volunteer.)

I've found in my own that it's often not that hard to cut about 25% without losing much, if anything. I need to let it rest a while before I can see that, of course.

If the length really bothers you, or if you try and no agent bites, look at whether you can separate it into two books and try again.

[This message has been edited by Meredith (edited February 16, 2011).]

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Member # 7977

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First, thank you (and I would happily accept any volunteer readers; I do crit-exchanges, but you have fair warning about the length)

I haven't started fretting about length to the point of wanting to cut yet, of course. I actually have a sort of perverse pride in how long it's been getting.

I will dance a nice long jig when I get the book to be (in the parlance of my industry) "feature complete," which certainly doesn't mean it's bug-free. Length is just one of those things that I wonder about. 40,000 words away from finished is closer than I ever thought I'd be 150,000 words ago, and so I spend plenty of my non-writing time dreaming (and nightmaring, which totally isn't a verb but should be) about the future.

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Josephine Kait
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Love it. It's a word now, and I plan to use it!

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Member # 8547

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I certainly hope they'll consider longer books, since my current WIP is geared more towards one of the monster thousand page epics that I love so dearly. It's my dream to see my name up there with George R.R. Martin, Brandon Sanderson, and Robert Jordan.

Trying to write a book around a specific word count can cripple the writing, IMO. It never hurts to keep the length in mind, but don't let it stop you from going past that 120k word marker.

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