"The word count is simply too high."

Well, I’m a few (so to speak) rejections into looking for an agent. They’ve all been cordial, but only one has included anything about why they passed on the project.

“The word count is simply too high.”

She also sent me a link to her blog where she gives word count guidelines.
theswivet.blogspot.com/2008/03/o … ength.html

Uh… my YA/Fantasy is sitting at the 170,900 mark. Hey, if I keep going I can break her record! :blush:

Ok, so according to this advice my novel is only twice as long as it should be.

But it got me thinking. There’s something of a natural break at the 83,000 word mark. All my main characters have just come together, they’ve defeated a main enemy, and some of the main questions about how things happened the way they did have been answered, though many questions still exist.

Chapter 11 can - with very minimal editing, maybe an afternoon of work - become the final chapter, and chapter 12 can - without changing a word - become an epilogue. Chapter 13 is set up almost perfectly to be a chapter 1 in a new book. It’s almost as though I planned it this way - I didn’t, but damn if it doesn’t just work.

Right now I’m an untested, unpublished writer with a first novel and several idea for a sequel. If I break it up I’ll still be an untested writer, but I’ll already have a sequel ready to go and material for a third in the series. If nothing else, numbering it this way shows I’ve got the ability to keep writing.

I’m fairly excited by this prospect. Obviously without having read the book(s) it’s a little hard to judge, but as I’ve presented it does anyone see the down side? There has to be one, but I’m having trouble seeing it.

While we’re on the subject, what’s the easiest way to split a single scrivener project into two books?

The easiest way I can figure is to duplicate the project in the finder, assign them unique names, then delete the relevant chapters from each.

If you’re willing to have them live in a single project, you can just create a second folder for the second book, and drag the appropriate chapters into it.

If you’re not, you can create a second project file, drag the appropriate chapters over from the first, then delete them from the first project.

Make sure you have a current backup before making this kind of radical change, using any method.


VERY sound advice. Actually, I made several backups in a couple of places before splitting them.

Thanks for the info. It is good to know that I’m working in the proper range.

Also, I have my ‘Scrivener Backups’ folder on an external hd AND on my iPod.

What I’m taking away from the lack of response is that no one else sees a downside either. :slight_smile:

Uh… my YA/Fantasy is sitting at the 170,900 mark. Hey, if I keep going I can break her record! :blush:

YA fiction = Anywhere from about 50k to 80k; sometimes - but rarely - goes above 90k (usually for the second or third in a particularly bestselling series; rarely for a debut). [end quote]

Speaking as my editor-self and not as my writer-self, before you begin a Draconian whack-a-thon of whole chunks of text and events and interactions, you might first start (on a copy!) peeling out little bits and pieces you thought were essential but probably aren’t. Remember Strunk & White’s Prime Directive: “Omit needless words.”

Go through the whole thing methodically, line by line. Few 22-word sentences ever written can’t be compressed into a much better 14-word sentence with a careful choice of words. One great verb can sometimes replace half a paragraph. Unnecessary attributions in dialogue can clot the works with 4,000 words worth of He Saids and She Saids.

When you get to the end–and this takes a shocking amount of time (about four double-spaced pages an hour for a typical experienced editor)–you might be surprised to find just how close to your target you’ve gotten. And then with all the underbrush cleared away, you’ll be far more likely to make the right decisions about just which scenes to axe and which need to stay.

Oh bugger.
Looks like I have a lot of editing to do at 160,000 for the first book. Reading that blog site also makes me wonder how receptive agents/publishers are to books that come in parts, with no definate ending till the final book? ie the difference between say Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. Had the first Harry Potter not gone down so well the story had pretty much wrapped itself up by the end. Whereas the first Lord of the Rings would be lost without the other two books. Mine being like the latter I’m suddenly wondering if I’ve shot myself in the foot.

Look!..fgs! Humungous amounts of gratuitous sex and violence, and you`ll do no wrong. First Rule of Thermo Scivenage.

That’s Oh bugger number 2. Forgot to put all that in. :frowning:

onehundredandsixtythousand words…and no se…not possib…I dont beli...Haaaa haaa!! :laughing: :laughing: Y got me gointhere dint y!! Its the Cheltenham Jester coming out...init?. I bet itd make Paul ‘thequietone’ (sewerborge), blush :blush: :wink:
Not Middlemarch Redux, is it?

Cutting from 160k down to 120 should not be that hard.
Basically, you have to eliminate every fourth page.
I’m not kidding.
Every page of a draft has fat in it:
Long descriptions
Dialogue by minor characters who soon disappear
Whimsical expressions you can’t bear to kill.
Enemies you are secretly trying to kill.
Stuff you wrote while sloshed, stoned, sick…
Eliminate, in the lower colonic sense.
Also, ask a smart, trusted friend to read
And mark where he/she lost interest or got confused.
Another pair of eyes is hugely helpful.
Good luck!

Thanks Druid. I’m sure, as you say, it won’t be too difficult as I’m only on first draft. Seemed a lot of cutting at first but not when it’s thought through properly. I like the idea of marking places where interest lacks or confusion ensues. Will certainly give that a go. Cheers.
And of course I’m joking Vic. I want the thing to sell. :wink: Besides, the research for those parts needs a lot of personal input.

For new writers without a track record, not very.

S. L. Viehl, the author of the Stardoc series, was told to wrap things up after book three or four because the books weren’t selling well enough to continue the series. She was eventually asked to complete it – I think the finished series is 8-10 books – but only because her readers refused to let the first few go out of print.

Also, remember the sad example of Robert Jordan, who died before he could finish the Wheel of Time series.


First, The Lord of the Rings is a bad example, since that is 1 book—it was split into 3 b/c the cost of paper was prohibitive after WWII and few people would’ve bothered to buy it at its excessively high price.

Second, all agent advice I’ve read says that you query for 1 novel at a time. When selling book one—which needs to be able to stand alone—you only mention that book. Once you’ve been accepted as a client, then you can mention you have book 2 done.

Third, standard advice is to write book 1 in a planned trilogy, then to work on a different project when querying that book 1. Reason being, book 1 mayn’t sell, or sell poorly if it does, so maybe nobody will ever wanna buy book 2, and there you’ve already wasted all that time writing it, whereas a different project becomes something else you can try to sell.

However, writing the entire trilogy first can mean a deeper and better books 1 & 2, if you’re willing to spend all that time on 3 books that might not ever sell, feel free to go for it. I’m possibly going to do that with one project that I’m considering putting online as a serial.

Forth, make sure you actually have 2 books there and don’t just need to edit. I don’t have your insane wordcount problem—I write way too little and have to double or quadruple the original length—but I understand that first novels tend to be full of rabbit trails. I recommend checking out Janice Hardy and Shanna Swendson’s blogs. They have a ton of great advice.

Just as I thought. Means I’m going to have to look at this from a totally new perspective. At least I’ve realised after only 200,000 words eh! :frowning:

It’s a good example because mine was intended to be one book split into three volumes. Hence the ‘mine being like the latter’.

Either way, looks like I’m going to have to review the whole situation.

Thanks for the advice people.

Tip: leave out the parts that people will skip anyway. Then cut by another 25%.

…But you were talking about actually having a trilogy on your hands. TLotR isn’t, technically. It’s 3 books for publishing constraints, not due to natural breaks in the story. That was what I meant.

If you guys don’t mind, I’d like to weigh in with a couple of tips as far as word counts go.

I ran into the same problem of writing huge books when I first started out, both in fiction and academically. It is really tempting to put in everything possible and end up having written War and Peace x 1000.

I now write to very strict parameters, transferring what I learned from doing a PhD with a tight word limit. I’ve actually been taking advantage of Scrivener’s project target tools in order to do this. Chapters have a word count that I aim above (but not too far above), and the books as a whole have an established total word count that I don’t exceed by more than a couple of thousand words.

This isn’t just to please publishers, who are thinking of your work as a product they have to sell, and aren’t just being arbitrarily restrictive to writers’ creative talent.

If you give yourself word count targets and limits, it really helps you focus your mind on what you want and need to convey and how best to do this. Each chapter (if you have them) tells a smaller segment of the larger story, adding more information, events, characters into the mix. You can start asking yourself what really needs to be conveyed, and how you are going to do this effectively - what words will you use, what elements of the scene will you focus the reader’s attention on?

I use word counts as another tool alongside planning each act, including where to put the breaks, crisis and climax.

I’m going to use a painting analogy here - if you don’t mind. I studied abstract art in my late teens, and during the production of pieces, there was a surprising amount of restriction on the palette we used, usually selecting only three colours from one end of the spectrum and another from the opposite as a counter. I think word counts are the same, they make you focus on what really matters to the book as a whole, as a completed work.

Of course, there is the opposite argument that it is much easier to write more and cut down later, than to write too little and have to add.

And now, having written a small essay on the subject (and probably used too many words to say what could be said more effectively with fewer), I shall get back to work.

essay! :open_mouth: jeeezz!! dissertations are more the norm onboard Scriv. You essay away. :wink:
Take care
[size=50]P.S. Nice having you onboard[/size] :smiling_face: