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Author Topic: Length of debut novel?  (Read 13387 times)

Offline FlemmingHansen

Length of debut novel?
« on: March 13, 2012, 04:24:21 AM »
Hello everone

I hope to get some input about the length of a debut novel. I've read that a debut novel is preferred by agents and publishers to be under 110000 words and over 80000 words.
In my opinion that's short!

Is that really true?
Status: Draft completed 22.07.2012 (114198 words)

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Offline AnneLyle

Re: Length of debut novel?
« Reply #1 on: March 13, 2012, 07:17:33 AM »
It depends on a number of factors - the specific subgenre, the publisher in question, how awesome your book is - but yes, that's a good ballpark figure to aim for. If you're writing something with a modern-day setting like UF, I'd err on the short side, but you can get away with the higher end of that scale for epic fantasy, maybe even push it a little higher.

Of course you'll come across plenty of exceptions (my own debut is 140k), but if you want to maximise your chance with agents, I'd stick to the 80-110k limits. Agents want a book they can submit to the maximum number of editors, so a long book is a less certain return for them. I got my book deal first, from a publisher that was open to a slightly longer book, then picked up my agent off the back of that.
« Last Edit: March 13, 2012, 07:20:24 AM by AnneLyle »
Elizabethan fantasy trilogy The Alchemist of SoulsThe Merchant of Dreams and The Prince of Lies out now from Angry Robot Books!

Offline Francis Knight

Re: Length of debut novel?
« Reply #2 on: March 13, 2012, 08:52:10 AM »
As Anne says, it depends a lot on sub genre, publishers etc. As a very general rule, for instance, more epic fantasy books in the UK tend to be a bit longer. Other sub genres, maybe not (mine is looking like it'll be about 95k for instance.)

But I think if you aim for say 100k, you'll be in the sweet spot.
My tongue has been in my cheek for so long, I've eroded a new mouth.


Duellists Trilogy (as Julia Knight) coming soon from Orbit!

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Offline FlemmingHansen

Re: Length of debut novel?
« Reply #3 on: March 13, 2012, 06:12:40 PM »
Thank you both for your input. I really appreciate it :)

 I think I'll shoot with buck shots and try to keep the first book below 110000 words. I feel that I just got started, and already I've passed 30000 words. It's gonna be hellish boiling it down.

It's funny actually - How a story suddenly can explode inside your head. I think I must get started on that synopsis :D

Thank you again. :)
Status: Draft completed 22.07.2012 (114198 words)

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Offline Dan D Jones

Re: Length of debut novel?
« Reply #4 on: March 13, 2012, 06:55:42 PM »
I think I'll shoot with buck shots and try to keep the first book below 110000 words. I feel that I just got started, and already I've passed 30000 words. It's gonna be hellish boiling it down.

Hint:  Think trilogy.

Offline FlemmingHansen

Re: Length of debut novel?
« Reply #5 on: March 13, 2012, 07:10:20 PM »
I think I'll shoot with buck shots and try to keep the first book below 110000 words. I feel that I just got started, and already I've passed 30000 words. It's gonna be hellish boiling it down.

Hint:  Think trilogy.

I already do! Gg :D
Status: Draft completed 22.07.2012 (114198 words)

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Offline AnneLyle

Re: Length of debut novel?
« Reply #6 on: March 14, 2012, 07:25:06 AM »
I feel that I just got started, and already I've passed 30000 words. It's gonna be hellish boiling it down.

Just focus on completing the first draft, then worry about how long you need to make it. I found with my first novel that a lot of the early part of the draft was exploratory and could be cut drastically once I could see the shape of the story.

On the plus side, I'm now releasing some of those deleted scenes as free tasters for the novel - so don't throw your edits away :)
Elizabethan fantasy trilogy The Alchemist of SoulsThe Merchant of Dreams and The Prince of Lies out now from Angry Robot Books!

Offline Nyki Blatchley

Re: Length of debut novel?
« Reply #7 on: March 14, 2012, 03:39:14 PM »
I've always heard 80-120K quoted as the "Goldilocks Zone" but 110K's probably safer.  It is possible to go higher - mine was 130K (epic fantasy).  Also, although I haven't really analysed if this is happening, it might be a bit easier to get longer novels epublished, since there aren't the same production cost issues.

Offline FlemmingHansen

Re: Length of debut novel?
« Reply #8 on: March 14, 2012, 06:09:51 PM »
Again, thank you for the feedback. :)

Nyki, i guess you're right that it's always good to keep in mind that there are no clear limits. Both you and Anne went above the 110000 words and got published, so everything is possible.

Anne, I hope you're right that it's easier to cook down once the story is complete. Perhaps I'm just worried about the plot lines and that the world and story will appear as thin. But it sounds like a good approach to complete the story, and then find the trimmer and perhaps kill an adverb or two :p
Status: Draft completed 22.07.2012 (114198 words)

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Offline Tiffany Kysis Tackett

Re: Length of debut novel?
« Reply #9 on: March 19, 2012, 03:26:52 AM »
It is definitely easier to boil down once you have it finished, because at that point, you should have a good idea of the main plot arc and the main character arc.

For me, a first draft is always exploration.  A lot of times, I throw a character in a random setting and go with it, discovering what matters to the character and to the world on the path to the end.  Sometimes this makes me write a really long book.  Other times, I come out with something really short.  Either way, that draft is never the finished product.  There are always scenes that could be cut and scenes that need to be added.

As for length... I've always heard the 80k-120k rule, also with the UF at the low end, epic at the high. I'm working on epic fantasy, but most of my drafts have averaged around 100k, right in the middle.  And for some publishers, that's just fine.  Hopefully it'll find a home.

But for now, have fun!  Enjoy discovering the world and the story.  Worry about wordcount later!

Offline Silence

Re: Length of debut novel?
« Reply #10 on: March 19, 2012, 09:45:21 AM »
That certainly stacks up with my experience. My publisher has asked for 100-120k, 80k, 100k. Not that they necessarily got that, but that's what they initially wanted.  :)

Once you're "in" then every book is as long as it needs to be, I think.

I'd suggest that more important than sticking rigidly to your guideline numbers (although don't stray too far!) it is probably more important to have a convincing and compelling outline of what happens after your first book. Publishers and agents look to buy books in 2s and 3s, so you should show you have that material.

None of which matters nearly as much as having a convincing and compelling first book!
Stephen Deas is the author of the aptly named Memory of Flames and The Thief-Taker's Apprentice series and the less aptly named Memory of, uh, Some More Stuff Burning And Maybe Some Other Stuff Too

Offline Nyki Blatchley

Re: Length of debut novel?
« Reply #11 on: March 19, 2012, 03:32:02 PM »
Once you're "in" then every book is as long as it needs to be, I think.

Particularly if your name's Jordan, Martin, Rowling or King, of course, but even others.  Mary Gentle got her novel Ash: A Secret History published in one volume at half a million words, though I believe the US edition split it in two.  That definitely wouldn't work for a first-timer, though.

Offline FlemmingHansen

Re: Length of debut novel?
« Reply #12 on: March 20, 2012, 09:28:43 AM »
Thank you again for the replies. :)

I think the name of the game for me right now, is to get the story down on paper, and keep the 100000 word goldielock zone as helpful reminder in the back of my head. Currently I'm aiming for an average of 500 words/day.
I've also found out that writing each day is far easier then burst writing every once in a while. This also helps in the planning process, not to mention the consistancy of the story.

Thanks again for your help :)
Status: Draft completed 22.07.2012 (114198 words)

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Offline RobJHayes

Re: Length of debut novel?
« Reply #13 on: April 03, 2012, 12:24:27 PM »
Thought I'd give a bump to this useful thread. My own work is currently sitting at about 150k and I'm in the process of cutting it down... which is hard because in my mind every single word is essential. :D
Website: http://www.robjhayes.co.uk/
Twitter: @RoboftheHayes

Offline FlemmingHansen

Re: Length of debut novel?
« Reply #14 on: April 03, 2012, 12:50:24 PM »
Thought I'd give a bump to this useful thread. My own work is currently sitting at about 150k and I'm in the process of cutting it down... which is hard because in my mind every single word is essential. :D
Sometimes I think that forums need a like button for great comments. I feel the exact same way. :D
Status: Draft completed 22.07.2012 (114198 words)

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