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Friday, October 5, 2012

How Short Is Too Short?

My first novel. It’s been on my mind for a while now. I always intended to go back to it. Reedit. Rewrite. It’s not dead yet.

But, like with anything, getting started is half the battle. It’s been nice to pull the old story out and spend the time thinking about it. Thank you for putting up with my doubts and answering my questions.

It’s a nice exercise to look at your older writing. I see how much I’ve changed (and hopefully improved) since I put that story aside. As I pulled out the snippets that I posted, I saw some glaring issues with them. I took the time and rewrote them. It wasn’t as hard as I thought.

But, the novel I wrote ended up being about 77,000 words.

From what I’ve read online, fantasy novels should be about 80,000-100,000 words. Even rounding up, I don’t make the minimum. When I set the novel aside, I knew the word count was short. Now, I know that I’ll probably trim a couple thousand words as I tighten the novel again.

This worries me.

How short is too short for a fantasy novel? Is this novel doomed? Or can it be saved?

14 comments:

Patchi said...

What you have is a first draft. Tighten it up then give it to someone to read. They'll ask you a million questions that you will want to answer in the novel. By the time you answered all of them you will probably have at least another 5,000 words--if not more. In each round of revision you add story and tighten language. By the time the novel is complete, it will be in the appropriate range.

When I finished my first draft I had 40,000 words. I didn't think it would ever be a novel. I've been working with beta readers and critters for over 6 months. Now my novel is 85,000 words and I think it's at the polishing stage. At least until the next person reads it...

Liza said...

I agree with what Patchi said. I was at about 77K with my first draft. Eight edits/reads later, I've cut a ton and I'm at 93K. Keep refining your story and you'll get there.

Mel Chesley said...

Well yeah, that is about standard word length, 80-100,000 for a fantasy. But you also have to shop around and check the publishers. Some don't want over 70K. Seriously. Mine is currently sitting at over 71K right now and it started out being only 67 or 68K when I submitted it. With the edits, we added so much more and tightened it up. So stick with what you have and if they ask you to lengthen it, you probably could. If they accept it as is, know that edits might add in some more. You never really know. I see lots of fantasy out there just around 60K. It's just more of a guideline.

J.L. Campbell said...

Hi, Liz,
Don't know much about fantasy, but I know they have big word counts. For sure, you will probably lose some more words as you edit, but you may also find you can develop another plot line.

Angela Brown said...

The word count mentioned is about standard for fantasy novels. However, after a good trimming and having a couple of beta readers tear through it, you'll find ways to bulk it up and get it where you want it to be.

I would just caution against bulking up for the sake of bulking up. That could work against the great writing you've established.

Liz said...

Ah yes, beta readers. That was a disaster of another flavor...

Liz said...

Thanks.

Liz said...

That's good to know.

Liz said...

Thanks.

Liz said...

Oh yeah, I wouldn't dream of adding words just to add words. Which was my dilemma.

Laura Stephenson said...

Is it an epic, heroic, or urban? Urbans can be fine on lower word count, heroics usually go 80k-100k, and epics (I've heard) are generally 100k and up. All publishers are different, though, and you'll probably find through the process of beta readers and rewrites that there's a possible subplot you didn't think about before that would go so well in there...

DEZMOND said...

I enjoy shorter novels just as I enjoy huge epics :)
I always get confused when you Americans mention number of words, here in Europe we measure books, manuscripts and translations in pages :)

Jess said...

No way! It's not doomed! If the writing and story and characters are there, I don't think an agent/editor would be turned off by a lower word count. I think you're fine :) I'm with Angela above~ don't bulk up just to bulk up!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I do like my fantasy novels long and in series. I don't mind short if there is a book #2.