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  1. #1
    Breaker of Walls
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    My first book has become three...

    For the last seven months I have been devoted to my first fantasy novel. I have passed about 70k words on my original goal of 120k. The problem here, is that I didn't expect my storyline to reach as deep as it has and now the expected wordcount will be closer to 300k. I have been reading about publishers idea wordcount for new authors being around 120k.

    My struggle is to now break down this epic fantasy to fit this mold with multiple books. Would I have any chance as a new author to write the entire story as an epic standalone novel? Or should I be writing to divide up my story into three parts?


    Sidenote: I have four POVs. All of which start on different areas of the world. Their paths will not intersect until the end of book two, (if I were to divide the novel into three).

  2. #2
    There is no tomorrow RedMage's Avatar
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    First novel length is not a question that I know the answer too and is more suited to someone like KatG, who will no doubt chime in at some point (which is a good thing! ) But my thoughts on it are that publishers would see a 300k word first novel and say it will never sell because readers will be daunted by the sheer size of the thing in the first place and, in the second, they will see the name of the author, not recognize, and make the decision not to give it a try at all. I mean, for those of us who like hard copies of books and not electronic things that don't have paper pages, can you really see yourself picking up a brand new author's enormous book off the shelf for at least $25 USD? No offense, Secluded, but I would have a difficult time with that.

    Are there no natural breaking points in your novel so far? Do you see any in the planning and/or outlining work you have done on the plot for the rest of it? Maybe 2 of your POV characters have some revelations or something. I feel it is ok to leave the others hanging at the end of a book, as long as you return to them in the next one.

  3. #3
    KMTolan kmtolan's Avatar
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    For most indie (e-book) publishers, your length is around 80k however a good story can get you in up to 120k with some publishers.

    I was doing a trilogy until I realized that, for the same reasons you gave, I was looking at four books instead.

    My opinion on book endings in a series is that you shouldn't end with anything less than a satisfying ending - no cliff hangers. Each book should, ideally, be completely stand alone. What you do, however, is offer an ending (I like epilogues for this) that peeks ahead into an interesting look at what's coming next. The reader should know that the story continues, but still have a sense of closure with the current story.

    Kerry

  4. #4
    Was: "Virangelus" A. Lynn's Avatar
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    Yeah, to agree with what RedMage said, KatG did post extensively about first books and length at some point on this forum (I think it was to the effect that quality or quantity should be considered). Unfortunately, the SFFWorld Forum Search tool seems to be malfunctioning. Something about memory being exceeded???

    Don't worry, KatG will be here soon Then if you're lucky, Fung Koo will also show up and start debating KatG on something and those are always fun discussions to read.

  5. #5
    Breaker of Walls
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    Quote Originally Posted by RedMage View Post
    First novel length is not a question that I know the answer too and is more suited to someone like KatG, who will no doubt chime in at some point (which is a good thing! ) But my thoughts on it are that publishers would see a 300k word first novel and say it will never sell because readers will be daunted by the sheer size of the thing in the first place and, in the second, they will see the name of the author, not recognize, and make the decision not to give it a try at all. I mean, for those of us who like hard copies of books and not electronic things that don't have paper pages, can you really see yourself picking up a brand new author's enormous book off the shelf for at least $25 USD? No offense, Secluded, but I would have a difficult time with that.

    Are there no natural breaking points in your novel so far? Do you see any in the planning and/or outlining work you have done on the plot for the rest of it? Maybe 2 of your POV characters have some revelations or something. I feel it is ok to leave the others hanging at the end of a book, as long as you return to them in the next one.

    I completely understand. :-)

    I am wanting to do the best thing that will make my novel marketable. I have found some stopping points that could be possible endings, but its all so unsatisfying to me. Especially since I know what is to come!

  6. #6
    LaerCarroll.com
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    This topic comes up every few months. Gets kind of boring for those who’ve been in this forum for a long while. But it comes up often because a lot of us have the problem of length, and not just beginners.

    The answer depends on several factors. In your case this is your first novel-length work. You seem to urgently want to get it published, so are searching for ways to improve your chances. But you also don’t want to compromise the book which seems to promise turning into a series. (On target so far? Or am I off base?)

    I suggest you should be less concerned about length than about story arcs. An arc is like a plane journey. There’s fueling and boarding, taxiing to a take-off, a lengthy trip, a landing, taxiing to a stop, and passenger exit. You can’t chop a journey in half.

    You may, however, have several legs on a journey. Each leg may immediately go to another leg. Or you may overnight, or over-weekend even.

    So what are the lengths of your story arcs? Do you perhaps have several short ones which might fit into one or more separate books? A story about a rookie detective who must solve several cases would fit this pattern. S/he is given successively harder and longer cases to get hi/r up to speed as a full-fledged detective who can take the lead on cases. In such a situation you would have a breakpoint after each case. You could have two or five books out of the exact same material.

    The story arcs in this situation run one after the other. In a more complex work you might several arcs happening at the same time. Such was the case with Tolkien’s Ring “trilogy” - which was a single arc of several parallel story arcs somewhat arbitrarily broken up to fit into three books.

    In your case you do not yet know with what you will eventually end up. I’d guess the better strategy would be to restrain your eagerness to leap into print. And finish the overall work. But I’m only guessing. You’ll have to work this out for yourself after you’ve got all our perspectives.

  7. #7
    Was: "Virangelus" A. Lynn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by secluded View Post
    My struggle is to now break down this epic fantasy to fit this mold with multiple books. Would I have any chance as a new author to write the entire story as an epic standalone novel? Or should I be writing to divide up my story into three parts?
    Here it is! Now that the Forum's Search Tools are operating again, I found a handy link to an older forum post for you to peruse. I hope it is of help. If you still have other questions, post into the thread
    www.sffworld.com/forums/showthread.php?t=16168

    I was considering "bumping" it but can't remember if there is a policy against that. Anyways, the link should work well enough.

  8. #8
    Breaker of Walls
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    Quote Originally Posted by virangelus View Post
    Here it is! Now that the Forum's Search Tools are operating again, I found a handy link to an older forum post for you to peruse. I hope it is of help. If you still have other questions, post into the thread
    www.sffworld.com/forums/showthread.php?t=16168

    I was considering "bumping" it but can't remember if there is a policy against that. Anyways, the link should work well enough.
    Thanks for taking time to dig that up. Interesting thread. I've got some thinking to do about it, but the most important thing to do is keep writing. Hopefully things will fall into place.

  9. #9
    The Great Flying Bear choppy's Avatar
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    My advice is to write the thing first.

    Once you have a complete first draft, then worry about breaking it up if you need to. Or trimming it down.

  10. #10
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Yes, Fung Koo and I are planning a road show. (Actually, since school just started up, I suspect he is a little busy.)

    1) You don't know that your novel will be 300,000 words. What you know is that you estimate your first draft may end up being 300,000 words. As George Martin will tell you, no one knows. You may find that your first draft ends up being 600,000 words long and likely a candidate for multiple books. Or it may simply fall into recognizable chunks on its own. Or, you'll realize that you have to drop an entire storyline or section and the first draft word count is actually only 180,000 words. So the time to worry is not now, unless you aren't sure you can spend the time to complete 300,000 or 600,000 words.

    2) It is possible to sell a first novel at 300,000 words. Susanna Clarke's first novel, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, was in that ballpark or just a bit under. But, it's going to be harder to sell and there will be fewer publishers interested and some of the ones who might be interested might not be category SFF publisher imprints. It's going to require a publisher to formulate a strategy to sell it at that size, to figure out the price and cost relationships for both print and e-book and how to work with booksellers on it. It's going to require you to convince with the book an agent that he/she can sell it and a publisher that it's worth trying to pull it off.

    So, when you get to that point, the question will be what have you actually got? Do you have one big novel that would be best off not being broken up? Do you have actually one large story but told in serial form with natural breaks? Do you actually have episodic stories that are simply tied together by some threads and so you put them as one? Most large stories can be broken up. The decision to do so or not depends on the author's goals for the story and the belief of interested parties in being able to make a large whole version work. (And if you do it for one country, they may break it up elsewhere.)

    So my advice is wait, write, then figure out exactly what you have and what might be the best way to present it to the readers.

  11. #11
    There is no tomorrow RedMage's Avatar
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    Amen to Choppy and KatG. You need to have a finished draft--or one so close to completion that you know everything that is going to be on the page and the only reason it isn't finished is because you can't type fast enough to have it done already. Only then can you really look back and see what you have.

    I am a heavy outliner and breaks in an ongoing story come somewhat easily to me. Still, it took me until I was halfway through the middle book of my trilogy before I realized that I could solve a lot of my characterization problems with both main characters by splitting the first book into two books and add more of everything to both halves. The moral of that story is you just don't know until you have written the thing.

  12. #12
    Breaker of Walls
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    I am working as diligently as possible to get an actual draft completed. I have been thinking about one of my pov characters storyline. I might combine a scene or two that originally was written as separate but would work happening all at once.

    I agree with what you all have said. Finish the draft first.

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