Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border

Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border
photo by Gene Tunick of Eureka, Montana

Monday, January 17, 2011

Tip of the Day - Guest Post (Part 2 of 8)

Stephanie Osborn - Things They Don’t Tell You In Author’s School, Installment #2:

Thing Two: It IS possible to have a novel that’s TOO LONG. It seems there’s some alchemy mixed into publishing. There’s an arcane formula publishers use to transmute word count into page count. Page count, in turn, converts to shelf space. Use up too much shelf space on one book, and the publisher suddenly can’t display as many books. So your wonderful, two hundred thousand plus word count book that spewed out of you like water from a fire hose probably isn’t usable, unless you can find a way to cut it down into two or three books.

Comment from Dixon - I had an interesting talk with a literary agent this fall at the Flathead River Writers Conference in Kalispell, Montana. Among other things, he said that although thrillers are typically around 100,000 words, previously unpublished authors should limit themselves to 70-80,000 words.


  1. I totally agree. And you can have articles that are too long etc. I know a writer who does this and I keep wishing she'd cut things down a bit. She has good information on her blog but dang, its surrounded by five million words that who wants to wade through that.

  2. I think part of the craft of writing is learning how to take that 200,000 words and cut the fat. It's great to write long in a first draft but then you have to shape and hone that draft like a block of marble. Inside those 200,000 words is the real story and you can get to it by eliminating half of the words in the first draft.

    But, then again, sometimes that 200,000 words is really two or three books. And publishers love writers who can prove they have more than one book in them. So, if you're attached to 90% of your original word count, evaluate the plot to see if you're trying to cram too much goodness into a single binding.