Sunday, July 08, 2007

66K ...

Chasing Midnight is the name of the book. I've been working on it for over two years. From a sliver of an idea from a dream I had, the crappy draft was born. This expanded to the official crappy first draft.

I had high hopes when I finished scribbling in red ink. I thought there were enough ideas to get this second draft in shape. And the editing went well, in the beginning.

Later, there was more cutting than writing. The last few dozen pages had big 'X' marks. Sentences, paragraphs, a whole chapter: wiped out! It was necessary, certainly. But I had hoped the end result would be the supposed minimum for marketability: one hundred thousand words.

I've got 66,006 (at least, according to MS Word, which is probably counting page numbers, headers, and 'typos' it fixed).

The good news: it is done. The bad news: what do I really have at this point? Is there more there there? Will a major third draft (shudders) get this to the holy grail of 100k? Or do I have a trumped up novella with pretentions?

For now, it goes off the desk to sit/rest/stew/age/marinate. At least I know to do that much and not give up on it, yet.

Have you all done that? Walked away from a novel knowing that it just wasn't going to work? I've done it twice (well 2.5 times). This one was going to be different.

Or maybe the next one.


Blogger Steve Buchheit said...

Sounds like a short novel to me. I've walked away from writing things before, and I have two novels started and on hold (and about four other stories that would probably be novels if I worked on them farther than I have) plus the one novel I want to write right now.

If it's finished, and through the second draft, don't reject yourself. That's an editor's/agent's job. If it's a good story, and good writing, that size could be published.

July 9, 2007 at 7:40 AM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

I think 100k is long, actually. I don't think I could even write 100k on one story! 80-90k is my norm for a novel. What's the genre? Are there other books you think it might compare to (like, if you like X, you'll like Chasing Midnight)? Head on over to amazon and do some text stat searching on similar genre books.

I've got a copy of a SF book here, The Wave by Walter Mosley. It's 49,605 words.

July 9, 2007 at 10:44 AM  
Blogger Todd Wheeler said...

"...don't reject yourself."
Good advice, Steve.

Cheryl: That's an interesting feature Amazon has. Thanks for pointing it out.

Quick search found Rollback by Robert Sawyer. His science fiction book has just over 84K. According to Amazon stats, 67% of SF/F author books (I'm guessing as opposed to anthologies) have higher word counts.

I understand your points, there are exceptions to longer books. But then, Mosley and Sawyer are established novelists. They could probably get a slim volume of their grocery list haikus published.

July 9, 2007 at 3:24 PM  
Blogger Camille Alexa said...

Cheryl's right about the 80k, though it must be said; nothing I've ever seen indicates editors want unsolicited, unagented first works by new writers of fewer than 80k.

There are a couple indie publishers who are currently showing interest in novels short enough to be 1/2 of a flip-book (you know those back-to-backs from the 60s and 70s, Todd?) I think those tend to seek 40-60k, but I'm not sure. Check out Simian Publishing (not a reference, btw--don't know anything about them).

More than one publisher (and SFWA professional) insists you use a word-count formula, rather than ms word count. Anna Louise Genoese used to have a very specific formula for Tor submissions, but since she stopped being a full-time editor over there I guess she's taken it down, because I couldn't find you a link.
In theory, those formulas add about 20% to your word count. I'm sure that won't fly everywhere. I think it's a little old-school.

But Daw takes unsolicited 80 ks, and EDGE takes 75k.

Anyway. Your first novel is kind of your starter-home, anyway. Think about how much you've learned and move into numero dos. You could sub out Chasing Midnight to at least one agent or editor in the meantime (just to make it official), and see how you feel after you two spend a few months apart.

July 9, 2007 at 3:44 PM  
Blogger Camille Alexa said...


I'm so sorry, Todd;
Concratufreakinlations on finishing the novel! Holy Cow! That's a huge step, to be able to sit back and call a thing done. Good for you, even if you fear fro its future.

You've accomplished a momentous thing. And seriously, the second one is easier in a lot of ways.

July 9, 2007 at 3:58 PM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

Ya know, I'm tempted to send something to rscrawford's magazine, just to get one of slobbit's haiku rejections.

But I digress...

Todd, if you send a compelling five pages, they ain't gonna care about the length. At best, they'll give you pointers on how to expand.

July 9, 2007 at 7:04 PM  
Blogger Todd Wheeler said...

Glad I have such knowledgeable friends. :)

I had read 100k on a web site, heard it repeated from a SF editor. I figured that was the standard, especially given how thick SF/F books are these days.

Hadn't researched more since I hadn't yet finished a novel I wanted to send out.

Another 15k? Maybe. I'll let it lie and see how I feel about it later this summer. It still needs a buff and a shine regardless.

July 9, 2007 at 11:33 PM  
Blogger slobbit said...

For Cheryl:

In rejecting the stuff that I've read
the work's faults must be widespread.
Your writing's too good
to hang in that hood . . .
and besides, they're limericks instead.


July 10, 2007 at 8:25 AM  
Blogger slobbit said...

Er, of course I mean Cheryl's writing is too good to just hang around in slush. I just reject the stuff I know isn't going to work for us. I let the other editors decide the rest.

As for Todd, I've walked away from something just recently because it's amounting to a whole bunch of not-working. Of course, it's not actually done so I ground to a halt at the confluence of . . . things not-working.

By all means, let it sit. Kipling said let a letter sit for a day, a short story a month, a novel for a year. I wouldn't hold hard and fast to that rule, but keep that in mind and let your back brain work at the story while your forebrain works on other things.

July 10, 2007 at 8:31 AM  
Blogger Cheryl said...


*waves to slobbit*

July 10, 2007 at 5:48 PM  
Blogger Todd Wheeler said...

Hi slobbit!

Good advice, thank you.

Yes, life was much slower in Kipling's time. Today we might let an e-mail sit for a minute, flash fiction over lunch break, and a podcast until Happy Hour.

July 10, 2007 at 10:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about a nice 14K-word subplot? Or 2 7,000-word subplots?

Congrats on finishing, though. It's nothing to sneeze at!

July 16, 2007 at 12:12 PM  
Blogger Todd Wheeler said...

Thanks Merrie!

Maybe a subplot with pirates. They are always popular. Or flying monkeys. Or flying monkey pirates.

July 16, 2007 at 3:31 PM  

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