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Like most of us, I hope to one day have a book published by a major publishing house. My current work-in-progress, Borradh, is far larger than anticipated. At the moment, it's about 129,000 words, with nearly one-third finished. I aim to complete it in around fifty or sixty chapters.

Not making the situation any better is all the horror stories I've heard about traditional publishing. There's talk about how expensive getting a professional editor can be—the longer the manuscript, the higher the commissioning cost. It doesn't help that my part-time job is dead-end and pays next to nothing, though it does give me a lot of time in the evening to write.

I'm not particularly keen on self-publishing, as I don't have a large enough fanbase to make this option viable. Posting my work online on sites such as Wattpad and Royal Road wouldn't get me anywhere either since my writing is darker than smut and wish fulfilment stories usually found on those platforms; most women aren't into this type of material.

So, where do I go from here?

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    Is this the same novel you discuss here, where you mention that you're going into far too much world-building detail? Were you able to address that issue in the end?
    – F1Krazy
    Jul 14, 2023 at 8:30
  • @F1Krazy That was an earlier iteration of the novel, which I've tried to patch up. Jul 15, 2023 at 1:23
  • Write a different novel, have it be a success, then you can dump anything you want onto the publisher as the "next" novel?
    – pjc50
    Jul 17, 2023 at 9:23
  • (more seriously, is there a market for this at all, and in traditional publishing you are not responsible for any costs, those are borne by the publisher)
    – pjc50
    Jul 17, 2023 at 9:24

4 Answers 4

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I hope to one day have a book published by a major publishing house.

... most women aren't into this type of material.

You are not alone. I suggest you google 400,000 word novel (roughly your estimated length).

Other people have 400,000 word unpublished novels asking for advice. The answers are exactly what you don't want to hear (same as here) but they will drop statistics and specific book titles to back up their answer.

where do I go from here?

  1. Write for yourself, with no intent to get published –– which is frankly what you are doing now. Don't chase commercial success as an author (financial success is almost unheard of). Write until you alone are satisfied.
  2. Cut your book in half, and then half again. Most genre novels do not exceed 100,000 words –– and plenty of publishing house readers say that a book that is too long will be eliminated, un-read. It won't even be considered.
  3. Partition the story into a trilogy, or tetralogy. You will have enough words for 4 books. (If you do not have enough story for 4 books, that's a problem.)
  4. Get a cost estimate of self-publishing a 1000-page novel (again, roughly your estimated length). Put a monetary pricetag on the expense of creating the physical book. DO NOT self-publish, as you say you have little interest in socially promoting, and you doubt the style will appeal to a broad enough market to recoup the cost per book. (Ergo, go back and consider #1)

Hiring an editor?

There's talk about how expensive getting a professional editor can be—the longer the manuscript, the higher the commissioning cost.

You should not consider hiring an editor until you've cut your book down to 200,000 words or less. You will be paying them to cut the book down to it's best 100,000 words, so it is not automatically rejected from the publisher's slush pile.

If this is not acceptable, you simply do not have a commercial novel. This book needs to fit inside the delivery pipe, which includes publishing costs, shipping, promotion, shelf space (even if digital it will require investment to make it sellable). It's a business.

Compromise, or don't.

That said, there is no reason not to write for your own satisfaction, tell the story as you like, and worry about publication later (if at all).

It doesn't sound like you have any interest in reaching a large reader base, or 'selling out' to more closely align with popular taste.

You may change your mind once this story is out of you. You may feel you can edit it down, or you may discover you have a smaller, more sellable novel inside you, and start that project with a shorter page-length in mind.

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    The trilogy approach is a good exercise, even if it's not the way you ultimately go. If you don't have enough story for three 100,000 word novels, you certainly don't have enough story for one 300,000 word novel. Trying to partition the story into semi-independent sub-arcs could help you determine what's necessary and what's fluff.
    – R.M.
    Jul 14, 2023 at 12:55
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    It was his 5th novel: King cut 400 pages from The Stand, 1978. Then he became famous af and put it back to it's 1,152 pages in 1990. - After you write Carrie, Salem’s Lot, and The Shining, then they'll take a look at the 2/3rds that's worth reading of your 1,152 page monstrosity.
    – Mazura
    Jul 15, 2023 at 0:58
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    This is an awesome answer. Besides just mentioning the expected problem, the answer doesn't try to specify which one way is best. It acknowledges that different approaches may be more preferable, based on the person's needs/desires, and discusses some realistic expectations of each.
    – TOOGAM
    Jul 17, 2023 at 11:09
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Just to add to Wetcircuit's excellent answer (which I 100% agree with and won't reiterate) here's a few thoughts about why your novel is so long:

  1. Is the book definitely "one story"? As in, a single main plot, with a beginning, a middle and an end? Or are you trying to write effectively a series length plot?

  2. Have you looked at critique groups? There's lots of good sites out there (see associated questions/answers on here) and you can get feedback from other aspiring authors "for free". (you have to put work in for them too)

  3. Are you writing down everything that comes into your head, or do you have a plan for the book? Neither is right or wrong, just bear in mind if you're discovery writing that you'll need to decide what really needs to be included later. If you're a planner...well you need to replan if you want ONE book out of this.

  4. Depending on your writing style, most manuscripts will lose 10-15% of their wordcount from draft stage purely in "filler" words, unnecessary action tags etc, without losing any actual content. Obviously you can achieve far more with cutting scenes and subplots. Either you're very verbose and will lose more, or your story is far too big.

Hope this helps!

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Edit Yourself, and Writing Circles

Paying someone to edit your work is hardly a requirement of traditional publishing. You can critically engage your own work and it will improve.

Likewise, you can find other writers in your community and critique each other's writing - which I've heard called a Writing Circle. Reading their work critically will exercise the "editing muscles" and make it easier to improve yourself.

And since they have a little more distance from your writing, they will help you find flaws in it that you'd overlook.

Clean As Bone

You want to write a sentence as clean as a bone. -- James Baldwin, on writing

Your question here is rather... wordy. Assuming it's representative of your other writing, there is a lot of cutting that you can do to get your work in progress to a reasonable length.

As an exercise, you might consider how you would get the heart of your question across in the minimum amount of words.

I think that the essence of your question is: You're looking for a low cost way to get critiques of your work, but the online communities you are aware of don't seem like good fits. That's the question I attempted to answer.

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    +1 for the James Baldwin quote. That is perfectly on point.
    – anon
    Jul 24, 2023 at 17:16
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    The wordy question was what sprang to mind too. Mainly because it reads like I'd write - verbose. After I've finished writing I have to cut half of the junk I've collected whilst meandering to the point. Sep 20, 2023 at 10:10
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Is there possibly a short story, or even a novella, somewhere in your 400,000 words? Or can you write a shorter work about some of your characters? This might help you test the water to see whether the punters will pay to read your tome.

Maybe be brutal. Toss it all, and write a short work based on what you have learned writing The Big One?

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