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When mind and words don’t match April 2, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in Misc, Novel, On Writing, Study.
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1 comment so far


I finished the first draft of chapter one of my novel project this morning but I feel surprisingly empty.

It’s a tad over 4000 words and I would prefer shorter, but that’s not the problem.  It’s just not as good as I wanted it to be.  Why is it that what’s in my mind never translates to the page as well as I want it to?  Why can’t my words ever do my imagination justice?

I can already spot a few problems.  Maybe it’s because my reading material as of late is nothing like the type of book I want to write.  I’ve been reading third person subjective character portraits in The Slap by Christos Tsialkos (review coming shortly) which I finally finished today (it’s a bloody long book).  It’s a great book but it’s too serious, too melodramatic, too reflective and too poignant.  Not exactly the influence I wanted for a blacker than black comedy.

Hopefully, that will change when I start reading stuff closer to what I want to write.  I’m reading Lolita again, and I’ll also be reading He Died with a Falafel in His Hand by John Birmingham and stuff by Frank Moorhouse and Shane Maloney.  Lots of reading doesn’t mean writing, but I’m becoming more and more convinced lately that what you read affects what you write.

I wanted chapter one to be mindblowing.  It’s okay at the moment, but it’s not mindblowing.  Yes, it’s only a first draft, but will I ever be able to mould it into what I have in my mind?  Do I have what it takes?

A Word About Novel Word Counts… March 11, 2009

Posted by pacejmiller in Fantasy, Novel, On Writing.
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Potentially my finished manuscript

 As the first draft of my fantasy novel surged past 90,000 words, I started to worry about the final word count for the very first time. 

It was never something I gave much thought to before – after all, most fantasy novels you see on bookstore shelves these days are thicker than some of my law textbooks (not many though).  However, with my story not even at the half way mark (or so I think), I’m beginning to wonder just how much of a door stopper the finished product is going to be.  250,000 words?  300,000?

While I will be ecstatic just to finish the book, I’d be lying if I said publication has never crossed my mind.  But forget about selling any copies – would any sane publisher even contemplate publishing a 250,000-300,000 word book from a first time writer?  I’m certain the answer is a decisive ‘no’ (if I was James Joyce, maybe, but unfortunately I’m not).

So what is a publishable length for a novel?  I was lucky to come across this blog post at The Swivet (the blog of Colleen Lindsay, literary agent).  The post is almost a year old, but I doubt the publishing landscape has changed that much in a year.  According to Colleen, the ideal length of a fantasy/sci-fi manuscript is 100,000 words, and up to 120,000-130,000 for a truly spectacular epic fantasy.  Agents and publishers tend to think that if a novel is too long, it probably reflects a lack of writing ability (in my case it’s probably true).  The limits don’t necessarily apply to established, published authors who have already proven they can sell.  There are also exceptions like Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian (which I have read and personally don’t think is that great), but she was already a star and award winner, which few first time writers are. 

If you scroll down that post, you’ll see a message which lists the word counts of recent and historically popular novels.  Some of them caught me by surprise, like the first Harry Potter novel, which was roughly only 77,000 words, or the entire The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which was only around 455,000 words!  Really?  I could have sworn both felt significantly longer when I read them.  Part of this might be because I’m already up to 90,000 myself and I feel like nothing much has happened in my story!

Yes, it’s just a first draft, and there will be a lot of re-writing, editing and cutting (A LOT!), but I just can’t fathom squeezing the completed manuscript down to a publishable 100,000 words.  So…perhaps a trilogy?  One that comes to mind is Patrick Rothfuss, who wrote The Name of the Wind (which I can’t wait to read).  He originally wrote a mega-long book entitled The Song of Flame and Thunder, which was rejected by all publishers he submitted to.  However, after he won the Writers of the Future competition, he managed to sell the book by splitting it into 3 volumes, the first of which was The Name of the Wind (which is still a ridiculously thick book that I’m sure exceeds 100,000 words).

Anyway, enough dreaming for now.  Have to try and finish the damn thing first.

PS: I can’t believe this is my 100th post!

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