Saturday, August 28, 2010

How Long is Too Long? Or too Short?

So, how long should a novel be?

Quick answer: Long enough. But I'm finding out as I research a bit more on what agents and publishers expect from a novel, I'm finding some of my preconceived notions my not be all that accurate.

Length, first of all. I apparently am thinking too short. My first manuscript clocks in at just over 50,000 words. I thought that was a good length for a first novel. But it appears in the reading I've been doing that the expectation, at least for printed books, is somewhere in the neighborhood of 85,000 to 100,000 words. I've read lots of formulas as to why this is the alchemical number range to achieve, some of it having to do with print runs and editorial costs and whatnot.

Still, I'm in the original camp: How long should a book be? Long enough to tell the story.

I stopped at (or at least near) 50,000 words not because I liked the roundness of the number, but because I knew the story I'm writing is going to be a bit more complex and the narrative, at that point, reached a natural point where a break -- such as ending book one and leading into book two. But now that I'm nearly 16,000 words into the second manuscript, I've hit upon another natural break that either tells me I could easily add these words to the first manuscript, putting me closer to the magical territory, or that I've got to keep writing. The latter is obvious. The former, well, I'm not so sure it's obvious.

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