I’m finding it extraordinarily difficult to judge industry-accepted word count expectations for unpublished fantasy authors.
I think it’s fairly standard for a new fantasy author to want to throw out a Game of Thrones length debut (some even think they can get a Storm of Swords length book published), but it’s clear that many agents and editors would more or less ignore a submission that is far too long. This I completely understand. There must be a large population of overeager aspiring fantasy authors who think that there 250,000 word first-in-a-trilogy debut is a polished masterpiece. We get it into our heads that each character needs just so much development, the fantasy world needs so much texture and depth to be believable, and a complex story must invite multiple subplots. The truth is probably that hacking off a hundred thousand words or more will make the novel better and not worse, but what really gets me is the “or more” part.
Just how much is enough? What should the manuscript be wittled down to exactly?
In an ideal world, enough would be enough for the author to feel that it was at the just right length–edited but still complete. However, that’s not how it’s going to work. If you submit something that is far too long you won’t have much chance of getting a second glance. Now I think anywhere above 150,000 words is in the obviously far-too-long category, but based on the research I’ve done, I can’t really find out the specifics about what is acceptable and expected. I’d link to a website that offers solid advice, but I have seen so many different opinions that it’s maddening.
Some have said that 80,000 is standard word count for new writers. Some say that fantasy is different, that 120-130,000 is acceptable, nay, required for new novelists. Others say that 100,000 is right on the money. I have no idea what to believe, and my range of ‘no idea’ goes from 80,000 words to 130,000 words. That’s 50,000 words of uncertainty!
My guess is that 100,000 words is playing it safe, but I wonder if that’s enough for a strong world-building fantasy novel.
Does anyone have any solid information on this? Opinions? Concerns?