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August 27th, 2005, 12:45 AM
I'm new to this forum and so far I enjoy the people he post here, they seem to know alot about writing novels and publishing them. At the moment I am still writing my novel (sci-fi/fantasy/apocalypytic) and I was wondering what is the maximum word count for a sci-fi novel?

I ask this because my novel has already passed the average stage to being published as a regular novel-sized book. So far I have 166,767 words in my novel, is that average or what? It's halfway done and I started since the beginning of January 2005. Is that too slow, having 28 chapters and nearly 167,000 words slightly more than half of a year?

I thank you!

August 27th, 2005, 02:41 AM
sorry bout that. i'm not sure about the word count but have you ever considered making it into several books instead of one? i think, personally, that you should finish it and then see how long it is but if it's only half way take that into consideration. it may be too long and better off in more than one book. thats what happened to many trilogy's in the past the author write one book and then the publisher says no three. i'm pretty sure thats what happened with Tolkien too.

~ Tari

August 27th, 2005, 05:59 AM
I'm in no way an expert, but from what I have read most publishers don't really want anything over 100,000 words for a first book. Alot of guidelines seem to go between 70-100k really. But then that could all depend on the quality of your composition. It's not like books that are 1000 pages don't exist, and from newly published authors no doubt. To play it safe I would go with the break-it-down theory. Otherwise, it wouldn't hurt to try your hand at a big submission. Either way, I bet the book is well written and worth the read. The reason the publishers give for not wanting to print a large book from an unknown though, apparently, is that it's costly to do a printing and that's a big risk. Do whatever feels right to you, or something that someone with more expertize suggests ;) .

August 27th, 2005, 06:17 AM
The simple thing is to, if you are submitting straight to a publisher, is to read their submission guidelines on formatting and word limit. You need to stick to them if you want to stand a chance of your manuscript getting lifted quicker off the slush pile.

It is a lot more than just the amount of words, you need to sell your story, with a good synopsis, covering letter etc. You also need a good story and well told. You need to nit pick the typos, spelling mistakes, etc... etc... till you are blue in the face. It is a long, hard job, there are no short cuts and you can go for years moving from photocopied rejection stips where they don't even put your name or the title of your book, to personal letters from editors telling you how sorry but they have to reject your work.

Most will state what length of novel they will consider. This is usually about 80,000 to 150,000, but that is not a hard and fast rule. An agent is at the moment considering a manuscript of mine of 250,000 words...

August 27th, 2005, 10:57 AM
:) Your help is grateful and I appreciate it; yes I have searched through almost every sci-fi/fantasy publisher...and mostly none of them accept submission over 150,000 words or so. I guess if I'm already passed the word count of their expectations, I might as well just wait until I finish the big book and cut it into 3 parts. (that's what my father suggested too).

Again, thanks for all your help! I love this forum/board, due to the great people and great guidance. This book of mine is something special to me, since I planned for it ever since I was 9-10 years old and I'm 18 now.

Anyways, thanks.

August 27th, 2005, 01:01 PM
Welcome to the forums Ctpicher!

I'd agree with the advice already given. Write the story first. Once you have something solid (and finished) to work with, you can start polishing. Most authors get rejected many times over, so even if things don't work out for you in the beginning, just keep plugging away.

Don't worry about being too slow or too fast. Some authors can pound out a story in a matter of weeks. Others can take years to get just part way through a manuscript. If you have a writing rate that's working for you, keep going with it.

I think what's most important is that you enjoy the process.

August 27th, 2005, 01:06 PM
My first book was around 240,000 words, and the second one around 275,000. Now granted, these were picked up by a small press and not a major house; and the publisher did have to split each book into two physical parts for printing. But at least the things got published in their entirety. So there are options out there, depending on how you go about it.

Larger word counts tend to be more prevalent in fantasy than sci-fi, and as others have said, as a first-time author, having a large book is just giving yourself another hurdle to jump over to get published. Consider splitting the story into separate books if it makes sense; or try to find a publisher willing to split the one book into more than one volume, if they're willing. Both of those will increase your odds at getting it into print.

August 27th, 2005, 02:56 PM
Larger word counts tend to be more prevalent in fantasy than sci-fi, and as others have said, as a first-time author, having a large book is just giving yourself another hurdle to jump over to get published.

I'm not sure if that is true, the epic length novel seems to be as much an s&f trend as it is a fantasy one.

I'd echo many of the comments made about length being an issue over a certain point, besides publishers love series - give them a 250,000 ms and they may ask you to chop it in two :) Best piece advice has already been offered, finish it first, write the story you want to then worry about how your going to sell it if that is your intent. Good luck :)

August 28th, 2005, 05:32 PM
Word count has always been a sore point with me. I failed to research what publishers might want, and just had fun writing the novel (which I still consider to be my best and most saleable work). My total word count was 530,000.

Naturally, I learned that no publisher would consider such a work, so I divided the novel into three books. The first book was a reasonable 112,000 words. But guess what? It doesn't work as a stand-alone, and because of that, I'm having a hellish time trying to get it published. So far, I've managed to get it read by a Baen Books slush reader. She loved it except for the ending . . . the inconclusive, cliff-hanger ending.

I believe that authors who are able to sell series where the first book doesn't work as a stand-alone (such as J.R.R. Tolkien, Tad Williams, G.R.R.Martin, etc.) are either from a different era, or had enough clout in the publishing industry to overcome this hurdle. ALSO, you should be aware that there's a backlash against epic series in the publishing industry right now. A lot of editors are getting burnt out on them and are reluctant to consider anything that sounds epic.

My advice:

If you can divide your epic in such a way that the first book is a self-contained story, then do so. And consider yourself lucky as hell.

If not, then finish the epic anyway (because it will probably drive you crazy if you don't), and then put it aside and write a stand-alone novel. Try to sell the stand-alone FIRST. Mark my words (I'm the voice of doom and gloom here, but I feel as if I have more than enough experience to stand upon), you're in for a lot of depression if you have your heart set on getting your epic read by major publishers.

Good luck . . . you'll need it!

August 28th, 2005, 09:53 PM
Lots of guidance and great comments, I appreciate it alot.

At first I planned for this book to be a trilogy just by itself, but thinking to myself, it would take longer and more cash to pay so I changed to combining it into one thick book. From the comments everyone made, I'm going to split once I'm done and probably be successful (hopefully).

Also, I write a page here and there and a chapter whenever I am in the mood; sometimes I get really inspired and just go all out writing. The inspiration fades off for a while and I'm left with a big space of writer's block. I know how I story begins and I know how it ends, but writing the details of the between and the trail to the ending is what takes time. Nevertheless, I'm willing to finish it no matter what. :D