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29 December 2007 @ 12:12 am
Ever since sarahtales got her book contract and began posting useful hints on the weird and wonderful world of publishing, I've been reading one or two editors'/agents' blogs. (Let it be stated, for the record, that I hatehatehate blogger; a more impossible site to navigate I've never encountered).

I find them entertaining. I am also profoundly grateful that I gave up the idea of writing professionally. It's actually very hard work - a full-time job - that begins, not ends, with finishing a book. All these hoops writers have to jump through ... god, it's like informal really hard exams. Medicine is a breeze by comparison.

However, I did come across one (methinks) anomaly whilst reading the Evil Editor's blog. I was hoping some of my better-informed compatriots here on teh intarwebs could clear it up for me.


Maureen Pope is a literary fiction piece. It is 64,000 words.
The Spirit Thief, complete at 75,000 words

Now, I estimated the size of a 300-page book once, and came up with 100,000 words. Admittedly I did this by counting the number of words in a line, then multiplied that by the number of lines, and multiplied that by the number of pages. Without a calculator. And my maths skills aren't just weak, they suffer from a genetic muscular palsy. Are these cases just novellas, or is roughly 70,000 words actually enough to constitute a book?

(ps that was the question.)
Current Mood: confusedconfused
Current Music: silent sigh (about a boy)
Riakessie on December 29th, 2007 12:27 am (UTC)
Generally, a first-time author has a better chance of getting published if their book is under 100,000 words. Less printing costs, less money spent, less chance of a flop and if it turns out to be successful, all the better.

General word-counts of a book also depend on the genre of a book. Fantasy can be up to 120,000 words for a first-time author, but agents and publishers tend to get worried if it's higher. Other genres tend to have lower word-counts for a first novel. It's the novels after the first one that can go higher (and a reasonably successful first novel also helps). :)
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Candy lipsscoradh on December 29th, 2007 12:32 am (UTC)
Wow. I mean, I find origific difficult, but that seems so little. I've read fics that are longer (and in a few hours to boot).

I suppose it's just my innocence. Back before I realised there was all this hoopla, I thought the hardest part was pushing up the wordcount to something like 150,000!
moocowmisconstrue on December 29th, 2007 12:39 am (UTC)
According to NaNoWriMo, which in its name suggests you'll have a full-length novel if you complete the challenge, you only need 50K to reach novel status.

Of course, Wikipedia says you need 60K but, if I remember correctly, those distinctions were always a little blurry to begin with (in terms of word count).
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Audrey Hepburnscoradh on December 29th, 2007 12:49 am (UTC)
I always wondered a little about Nano. For one thing, what kind of quality would you get in a month? I know it's supposed to be a spur, but ... all I can say is, Arundhati Roy took ten years to write The God of Small Things. And writing is such a solitary occupation, too. It wouldn't help me to know loads of other people are trying to write a book - they're doing it already. It's called the competition.

Um, anyway. You weren't asking for a rant on Nano! (I didn't even know I had one in me.) Like I said, 60,000 words is hardly anything. If I could publish fanfiction I'd have three or four books already. Ah, the vicissitudes of life.
grey_hunter on December 29th, 2007 11:39 am (UTC)
I wondered too, but then read NaNo's info page and I realised: NaNo is not for producing quality, but for producing quantity. I figure it is so people who think they cannot write things that long can get over their fixed ideas or fears that they could never churn out that many words. Even if the end result is something they will never dare post or try to get published because it would never be good, even if it is edited, they can say: yes, I wrote something that long, so I can do it the next time, too, except perhaps slower and better.
moocow: [txt] a few of my favorite wordsmisconstrue on December 30th, 2007 01:15 am (UTC)
haha. that is true, I think a lot of the time it's a springboard for people and a "thou shalt write or be guilted into it which results in the same thing, if of lesser quality."

Life is cruel like that, but there is always going back and replacing all the proper nouns. ;)

p.s. I LOVE YOUR ICON *covet covet covet* I had to use my porn one in return.
sleepingfingers on December 29th, 2007 12:46 am (UTC)
I was very surprised to find that out, too (what with the lengths of the later HP books and some of the epic fantasy books)--but yes, depending on the genre, 70,000 words is actually enough to constitute a book. According to Ginger Clark here, Young Adult novels should actually be between 40,000-60,000 words. Novellas are actually between 20,000-50,000 words.

Before, I had always thought that it would be hard to write up to the 150,000 words to make a novel. Now, I believe that it's harder to write down to 60,000 words (or 80,000, depending on the genre).
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: SGA: straightest man in the galaxyscoradh on December 29th, 2007 12:51 am (UTC)
Not but that JK couldn't have done with cutting about 200 hundred pages out of the last two books. But yeah, I was just as surprised as you. It doesn't give you a lot of room to manoeuvre, does it? Another thing to be thankful for in fandom - no word limits!
pir8fancier on December 29th, 2007 01:17 am (UTC)
I can answer this!

I think it difficult for anyone to take you seriously if you have less than 70,000 words. My first book clocked in at 50,000 and didn't sell. I revamped it, added 12,000, and got lucky because it sold at that. It also depends on what you're peddling. If you have a humorous novel like mine, it's difficult to keep up the humor for more than 75,000 words. Your reader gets bored. However, if you have a plotty, atmospheric novel (ala P. D. James), you'd better be at 80,000+. Anything more than 100,000 better be damn good because that's a lot of words and it needs to move very quickly or it just won't sell in this market. People don't have the attention span these days to wade through anything more than 100,000 words unless the writing is really spiffy!
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Marui: kissscoradh on December 29th, 2007 12:10 pm (UTC)
It's such a narrow window of opportunity, though. Must be over 70,000, must be under 100,000. That's only 30k to work with for the finale or whatever.

Okay, so next question: how many book pages does that equate to? Because I don't think most of the sci-fi/fantasy epics I've been reading lately would zoom in under the 100,000 word mark - they're at least 600 pages long. :D
pir8fancier on December 29th, 2007 05:27 pm (UTC)
Sci-fi fantasy is a niche market and is a little different because you got to include the world building in there (see Harry Potter). You NEED those words to create a credible world. If you're looking for guideline in terms of manuscript pages, a loose rule of thumb is to consider one page of double-spaced text, 12 point Times Roman font is around 250 words. Go from there. I use Bookman as my writing typeface. I had roughly 335 pages of manuscript this go around and it equalled, roughly, 73,000 words.

I think there are structural reasons for these numbers (although as people's attention span shifts this will shift). You can build a logical storyline in about 70,000 words. It gives you enough space for reasonable character development and also enough space for not super complicated plot. If your someone like Ian McEwan and you just wrote "On Chesil Beach" and you are one motherfucker of a writer, you can do all that in about 50,000 words. But that's a great writer. He also wrote "On Saturday" which was one day in a doctor's life, and that was a very involved book and probably clocked in at 120,000. But a fantastic 120,000. Sometimes it depends on the writer. But, in general, 75,000 words gives you the space to write a decent novel that services both plot and character.

If you're talking about world building, then all bets are out the window because it depends on the world. I would bet that Harry Potter clocks in at something like 250,000 maybe 300,000. It's difficult to tell from the different typefaces publishers use. Her typeface is actually large-ish (kids' books). For the adult markiet the typeface seems smaller to me.
Elsieelsie on December 29th, 2007 01:53 am (UTC)
Ooh, what blogs have you been watching? I should do that ... they must have some interesting things to say.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Cooler than youscoradh on December 29th, 2007 12:11 pm (UTC)
Okay, there's Maya's agent's blog - Kristin someone, I think. You'd best check her lj for that address. There's the Evil Editor I linked to above, and Miss Snark - again, no link right now, but google-fu will provide that in seconds. They don't tell you much about the process of submission, per se, but I've picked up a lot about how not to do it from them. Plus, funny!
kestrelsparhawkkestrelsparhawk on December 29th, 2007 02:39 am (UTC)
My workshop teachers at the local Loft have all pretty much given the same figures: a (commercial) novel is 70,000 - 120,000 words, and a YA novel is around 60,000. The info above is helpful for narrowing it down within that range. Novellas are 40,000 - 70,000 words, and with few exceptions nobody wants novellas anymore. (Note the overlap with YA novels is confusing. My hunch is that right now so many publishers are DESPERATE for a Harry Potter phenomenon, YA is the way to go to experiment, and the rules are most bendable.)

Unfortunately my first novel (soon to be making its rounds, except for this ONE thing) is currently clocking in at 190,000 words, and I really, really, really don't know how to fix that; the plot arcs aren't tidily half and half, so it can't be split, and it's not written episodically, so I can't simply delete episodes or a particular subplot.

I echo the request for addresses for blogs. I have trouble navigating ANY lj/blog/whatever list.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Shishido: gekidasascoradh on December 29th, 2007 12:16 pm (UTC)
YA is certainly the most daring and rebellious genre around - so I've found. On the other hand, it's a reliquary for a magnificent amount of tosh.

Could you try for a trilogy? That would probably come out about 60k a book (again, bad maths!). Have you got anyone who'd read it for you and advise? Maybe they could be more brutal than you when it comes to cutting. I don't know - guessing, here.

Okay, check out Evil Editor (link in post). Look on Maya's journal for the posts about her book and her agent. I'm pretty sure she linked to the agent's blog, which is very informative. There's Miss Snark, who is on blogspot - just google. I used them as jumping off points, because they all link to other people's blogs. Interesting and mind-blowing at the same time; I was there, this is actually work?!
Gin: Anime eyes of dismay.backinblack on December 29th, 2007 02:50 am (UTC)
Jesus Christ. My co-author and I wrote three (well. I co-wrote like one and a half, natch) 60,000+ novels and I always considered them novellas. It is staggering to realize they were ACTUAL BOOKS this whole time. I always thought books had to be 100,000+ plus!!!! WTF.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Comic stripscoradh on December 29th, 2007 12:13 pm (UTC)
God, I know right! You've got yourself some perfect YA novel-lengths in your laps. Snap to it! :P
purelytaintedktpurelytaintedkt on December 29th, 2007 04:29 am (UTC)
under 100 thou is usuall the norm for first timers. My bok is going to be lucky it if's trhree hundred pages. If my co author aunt ever gets off her lazy ass and writes. (contemplates stealing idea back.)

I've actually not been reading book as often as i'd like. lack of funds and what not, but the books i have besides the hp series is about 275 to 350 for the norm.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: ASS: I want somescoradh on December 29th, 2007 12:17 pm (UTC)
Yeah, it's kind of surprising how short fantasy/sci-fi really is, outside of Jo's little world. Good luck with your book!