Yesterday, I challenged my loyal blog readers to ask their burning questions on fiction writing on my new “Ask a Question For My Blog” page. (Please remember to ask your questions on that page, rather than posting them here as comments where they’re hard to manage as individual units.)
I’ve already got quite a hopper full of questions, so will be burning through them, starting today.
As I go through the snowflake method, I find my storyline to be complex that I can see breaking it down to multiple storyline, a series perhaps. My storyline covers a girl’s life from when she is a child up until mid-life in which she encountered multiple challenges throughout this lifetime. Is there a “rule of thumb” that I can use to decide to choose whether to write a novel that covers them all or to break this into series?
Randy sez: Mari is referring to my Snowflake method article here.
My advice on this is to try to write it all in one book unless that book would get too long. What does “too long” mean? That depends on how many books you’ve published. If you’re a first-time novelist, shoot for a first novel under 100,000 words. (Published novelists may be able to write substantially more words than that, but publishers tend to be wary of investing too much in a first novel. And costs increase with length.)
Mari, if you can see that your book is going to be 300,000 words, then break it up into three novels and pitch it as a series. But if it’s less than about 140,000 words, try to get it into a single book of 90,000 words or less.
Remember that there are very few actual rules on this point. Occasionally publishers will print a novel by a first-timer that’s huge. But the odds are against it, so the smart writer plays the odds. And the odds say that a first novel between 60,000 and 90,000 words is easiest to sell (roughly).
Gone with the Wind: 1472 pages in paperback (roughly 440,000 words at 300 wpp)
The Thorn Birds (which might be a good model for Mari, though it covers 3 generations, not half a life): 688 pages in the re-issued paperpback (roughly 200,000 words)
Val Clark says
Don, think about when those two books were published – even with the Thorn Birds being nearly 30 years old – reader tolerance for long books has diminished. Publishers taking on new talent tend to shoot for the writer who is there for the long haul – so proposing a series can work in your favour.