Moving the Goal Posts

NY Jets - Philadelphia Eagles, Sep 2009 - 01Creative Commons License Ed Yourdon via Compfight

If you’ve been following along on my Work In Progress meter for Starveyors you might have wondered why I’m suddenly almost finished. If you look at the end goal, you’ll see that I in fact shortened the goal to 65K words.

I did this because after having written past my outline and into uncharted territory at about 58K words, it became apparent to me that this was not going to be an 80K word story. No matter how badly I milked it. So my new goal is to just get it out to 65K or at least close enough to call it good.

I doubt any major publisher will ever want to print this novel, and most people will read it as an ebook only. So sweating over the established normal length for novels is not really helping the book any. The story I wanted to tell is or is about to be told and it looks like it will be about 65K words long. I don’t feel any pressure at all to make it 80K or 100K words long. I just feel pressure to finish it. My goal is to get this draft over with by the time I leave TN on Tuesday.

I have another novel to write and other things pressuring my writing time and this first draft needs to sit for at least a few weeks to a month. So if you’ll excuse me, I have to wrap this puppy up and put it to bed.

Ebook Novel Length

Comment bien partir la journée!Creative Commons License Benoît Meunier via Compfight

I’m currently writing my fifth novel, Starveyors. It will primarily be an ebook only novel. There will eventually be a paperback version, but most readers will read it and purchase it as an ebook. So it doesn’t have to be a certain length to look hefty enough on a book shelf. One of the reasons that most novels are around 100 thousand words long, is because that length makes for a hefty enough book for the reader to feel like he’s getting a decent story.

But if you can’t really heft a book, does it matter how long it is? I think price and length will be less associated in ebook sales. All of my ebooks are now priced at $2.99. That’s less than a good coffee at Starbucks. You can get two of my ebooks for the price of a paperback and three for the price of a hardback book. Most of my novels are over 60K words long. One is even over 100K words and they’re all priced the same – $2.99. Personally, I think that’s a great value. For my money, ebooks should always cost less than a paperback version of whatever book you are buying.

So now back to the length of a book. As I write this post, Starveyors is around 51K words in length. The goal I’m shooting for is 80K for the first draft. I usually write pretty sparse first drafts, so I expect that number to increase with the second draft. But what happens if I only make it to 50K? Do I panic? Nope. I just proceed with the second draft and know that I will probably add more words before it’s finished. I don’t think the reader really notices that a novel is only 65K words and not 100K words. As long as the story is complete and fulfilling, they really don’t care. I know that as a reader myself, I never worry about how long a book is. Unless I’m reading a huge Epic Fantasy. Then I pretty much know going in that it will take me longer to read.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that when you are writing your novel you should have a goal for end length. But unless you fall shorter than 60K, you shouldn’t worry about the length too much. Unless your SF novel is sitting at 200K words. Then you’d have to consider breaking it into two or more books, if only to keep your reader happy.

As a reminder, you can follow along with my word count in the sidebar on this blog. Now that I’m in the final stretch, that number should change daily.