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Author & Blogger Shop-Talk > How important is word count?

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message 1: by Tom (new)

Tom Krug (thomas_krug) | 24 comments So I've been hacking down my manuscript, trying to get it down to that coveted word count of 100,000. I'm glad I've gone through the trouble, because now I realize that several passages were much wordier than they needed to be. But with 3,500 words to go, I'm reaching a tipping point. I'm going to have to start chopping down passages that I'd much rather keep. It's going to hurt.

Which makes me think. Do I need to torture myself over this? I'm trying to publish professionally, and I'm going to try and go through an agent. I had assumed that most agents, by knee-jerk reflex, will delete queries for 100k+ word novels. But I've read that SF novels are allowed to be a little longer--apparently up to 120,000 words.

For a first-time SF author, which is it? How strict is an agent going to be about word count?

message 2: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Povey | 25 comments What subgenre?

message 3: by Tom (new)

Tom Krug (thomas_krug) | 24 comments It's Military SF.

message 4: by Greg (new)

Greg Fishbone (tem2) My advice is to write the best story you can in whatever number of words you think is best. If you are able to interest an agent or editor in your book, he or she will be able to direct you on whether your work needs to be expanded or condensed--or most likely, which parts require different kinds of revision.

message 5: by Tom (new)

Tom Krug (thomas_krug) | 24 comments Thanks Greg!

message 6: by Brian (new)

Brian S. Converse | 8 comments Tell the story you want to tell, but also realize that the reason bookstores want a novel within a certain word count is shelf space. It's always at a premium, so they don't want bulky books taking up valuable space, unless it's an established writer (i.e. Stephen King, George RR Martin, etc.) You're more likely to get your book stocked at a store if it is a slimmer trade paperback. If you only plan on offering the book in ebook form, then a longer book is not as much of a problem. Just make sure you price it appropriately. Hope this helps. Good luck!

message 7: by Heather (new)

Heather (bruyere) Military sci-fi, with no hard science and light politics I wouldn't want above 300 pages. If I remember, correctly, you have character building too so that would make it more enticing to me.

message 8: by Al "Tank" (new)

Al "Tank" (alkalar) | 45 comments Many moons ago, before dirt was invented, a "novel" was 50,000 words. In the latter half of the 20th century, they started growing until the "norm" was 100,000 words (give or take). eBooks can be just about any length as long as you keep the reader interested.

That being said, if you produce a riveting story that is at least 40,000 words, you'll probably be able to publish it in eBook format. Don't try that in paperback with less than 50,000 words (people will only see a thin book that doesn't look like much of a deal, unless they're buying children's books -- that's why the 100,000 word books did so well in mass market paperback).

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