Monday, July 4, 2011

MMWUC - How Big Is Your Stuff?

I suspect that this question is more easily answered by a plotter (the writer who plans everything) than a panster (the writer who lets it rip). Do you target the length of your scenes, chapters, and book?

The first book I ever finished, SECRETS, had five chapters of around 22K words each. Each chapter represented a major shift in the plot. I felt the structure helped the story, but I caved to conventionalism. Now, words are sequestered in 2000 (+/- 300) bit-sized chapters. It works, but for what might have been. I AM conscious of book length, trying to fit into the 60-90K range for newbies. I failed. "One Promise Too Many" is 95K; "A Matter of Faith" is 102K. This length also hurts me with POD pricing, but that's a story for another day. Now, I find myself tuned into the 2,000 word goal for chapters. Am I bad for doing so?

To what extent, if any, do you pay attention to the length of your stuff when writing or revising?


Guilie said...

I'm a newbie, so probably my input is not really what you're looking for. I've also been wondering about this issue, Rick - how long is too long? The novel I'm working on now is already 90K (+), and it's probably going to end up being about a third longer. I'm working on editing, but it's only the first once-over, and I'm adding at least as much as I'm taking out. Chapters are close to the standard you mention: around 2,000. But... the writing is what matters, right? If the chapters encompass themselves, if the story is good (I don't mean just passable)... What else is there? If every single (and I do mean EVERY SINGLE) word of the manuscript adds value, develops the story... What else can you cut out?

Rick Bylina said...

Newbies are people, too. :-)

The writing is what matters, but I also suspect that reader and genre expectations play a large part in determining the scene, chapter, or story length a publisher finds desireable before dumping vast fortunes on you and your book. I've seen chapters from one word to the entire book. How the character addresses the chapter goal determines the length of the chapter. As far as an entire novel length, 100K seems to be a real length issue because of the ivestment the publisher has in you and the physical costs of the book itself. As to the overall length of your book, get professional help before submitting it. You've spent years nurturing its growth. Send a little time ensuring it lives a long (shelf)life.

Bob Sanchez said...

Hi Rick,
You're not bad for trying anything and seeing what works. For me, a chapter signifies a smaller shift, maybe a change of scene, point of view, or time. I've written two-page chapters and twenty-page chapters depending on the demands of the story.

Guilie said...

Thanks, Rick! The advice on professional help (as bad as that sounds, he he) is totally sound. I'll definitely look for a developmental editor once the manuscript is sorta-kinda finished. You're right - the story may be fantastic and wow and all, but if it's unpublishable... Well, that's that, isn't it? Thanks again!