Thursday, January 13, 2011

The choice before me: One story or four?

As you may know, Being Human is written. I have gone through four drafts of editing and cutting and other than waiting for Erin to read through it again, I am generally happy with it. So now what? Send out my query? Snag that agent? Get it turned into a real book? (Look mom! I'm a real book!) A few days ago I thought about querying, sent my query to Erin and Aislin Keeley, both gave me prompt feedback for me to ponder. Aislin, especially. She commented on the length, saying for a young adult novel, the word count was high. When I was writing, I fretted over it being short, then I started looking around and found out I have nothing to fear.

Actually, I do have something to fear.

Being Human is at risk of getting passed over for being long! Can you believe that? Agents and editors are wary of long novels. Especially if the novel is from someone like me. By someone like me I mean I have no writing experience, no credentials. I'm an unknown. One day I had a dream of a story, wrote it down and kept writing until I got to Being Human and felt that was the story I want to share.

What does that mean? Do I still try to sell Being Human in it's current length? Do I edit more? I'm not afraid of trying to sell it with how it is, but editing it down? I'm really not liking the idea. I've cut enough and anymore and I risk loosing what I'm trying to tell. So what to do? There is another option, one I have dabbled with before. An option that is quite doable.

I cut it up.

Being Human has chapters but it also has parts and there are five. (Four if I take the fifth part that is super short and recombine it with part four.) I take those parts and make them their own books. To do that, I need to add a few chapters to develop characters more and strengthen up the conflicts. Then I do more editing. (Oh boy!) Once that's all done, then I can go back to querying and sending part one (also known as Brothers) to agents as the first part in a four part series.

Easy right? Mmmm, not really but there are my options. What do I do? The easy path would send Being Human out as it is and cross my fingers that the length won't scare agents away. The harder path is cutting it up and figuring out how to make each part strong enough to stand on its own.

What do you think I should do?

PS: There is also the option of saying screw it all and self publishing too!


  1. It's Aislin!

    I think you should do what feels right. If you want to keep it all together, then do that. There are many authors who have had success with the longer word count, but it's a harder road.

    If you want to cut it up, could parts 1 & 2 go together and the same with 3 & 4?

    But at the end of the day, it's your choice. So many people can give you advice, but this is YOUR baby. So the question is what do YOU want to do?

  2. I've been wondering about putting parts 1&2 together as well, thinking what to call it. I don't know, both options are appealing in their own ways and have ups and downs.

  3. Good luck with your decision! I've never been published (haven't even finished the first draft of my stories) so I, unfortunately, can't offer advice... other than to say I agree that the most important thing is for YOU to like the way the published product is presented. Ponder as long as you need to in order to determine the answer because it is an important question.

  4. I would leave it as is ... and try to sell it as one book. I mean, you can always go back to the drawing board after you've tried - if needed, right??? Honestly, I wouldn't cut another word ... it's really good as it is. Sorry it's taking me so long to get to reading the whole manuscript again .... I really hope to have it completed in the next couple of weeks. Plus I need your address.

    Anyways ... my vote is for leaving it as one book! But, you are the author ... and it's ultimately up to you!

  5. Okay, jumping in as a complete n00b to your blog; I just spotted your comment over on Scott Eagan's and couldn't help opening my big mouth…

    I'd say it depends on what fits the story, and why you have all those parts. (And how long you're talking about as "long".) I have a YA fantasy (I'm actually serializing it online, self-publishing out of curiosity) that's divided into parts, but I couldn't break it up without damaging the story.

    However, I also have a 5-part fantasy novel drafted that looks like it's actually 3 novels masquerading as 1. That one has enough plot movements that I should be able to expand it into 3, when I get to working on that set.

    I do wonder, though, if you've made sure to go through your story and double-check all the "fluff" words, like "very", "just", "there is/are", and such, to make sure that all those words are necessary?

    "There were people packed into the truck like they were chickens on their way to a chicken processing plant" could become "People were packed into the truck like chickens headed to a processing plant".

    But then, my own tendency is to write stories so short and sparse that I have to fluff them out, later. (My novel I'm serializing now is a reasonable length, but it began life as a 17k-word draft.)

  6. Carradee, I have gotten rid of the fluff words I know of (over 500 hundred because I did work count before and after out of curiosity!)
    My word count for the story as it stands is just over 133,000 First draft was over 150,000. From what I've been reading most YA are under 60,000
    (And you're completely welcome to open your big mouth anytime! Thanks.)

  7. …YA is under 60k words? My research says that 60k-80k words is actually the preferred range. (I'm assuming we're both talking about actually YA and not MG, too.)

    Have you ever looked up some actual YA and MG novels?

    The Accelerated Reader Book Finder is a cool resource for that and can waste much time.
    The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (age level debatable): 100k words
    The Shifter by Janice Hardy (MG): 70k words
    Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon (YA): 78k words
    Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (YA): 119k words
    The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (YA): 245k words

    See, I knew I'd find one that made yours seem short if I kept looking. ^_^

    Okay, so 133k words is still long for a debut, but it's possible.

  8. I got the 60K from Agent Query, they had list of genres and word count.
    I know a lot of YA books out now do have higher word counts. Gone by Micheal Grant has almost 130k words too (had to check out your link!) Guess I just need to find the right agent.

  9. "Guess I just need to find the right agent."

    …Please don't take this the wrong way, but isn't that a given?

    P.S. I just now saw your "About Me" and had some trouble tracking down the link to your Treasures, since I had no idea what you were calling it. Just thought you'd wanna know; I haven't seen much of it yet, but what I have is pretty.

  10. Well, it sounds like it's being taken seriously. That's a great sign. I usually just get form letters and death threats. I'd say you're on the threshold of getting published. Very exciting!

    As far as breaking it up into a series, not too bad of an idea. It seems like series do fairly well, especially in the young adult market. I've wanted to come up with a good idea for a series for a while myself. Of course, I have a hard time even getting a single book written, so maybe my goals are a little lofty. Anyhow, I would say that it all depends on whether you can break it up into separate books that each have their own self-contained story arcs as well as tying in with overall storyline of the series. That's the real trick. A series is more than just one book broken up into parts. You might have to do some serious reworking of your plot structure to pull something like that off.

  11. Bryan, that's the great thing. Each part has it's own story arc, when I was writing, I just wrote it all together as one whole story, but it can easily be chopped up without compromising much.

  12. Patricia, first of all, thanks for visiting my blog, and commenting! Otherwise I wouldn't have found your blog.

    Everyone makes a good point here. But, at the conferences I have gone to, the overwhelming answer from agents and editors when asked about pitching a series, is: don't.

    Make sure you have a very strong "first" book that can stand on its own, and if there is room for the story to go on from there, they will look at that possibility IF they love the first book. That being said, my advice would be to make your long story as tight and page-turnable as possible, and send it out. If an agent likes the book, but thinks it's too long, they will let you know. And they will also be aware of breaks that could make it a series of shorter books. The important thing is to get it out there, but from what I've heard over and over, do not pitch a series.

    A great agent blog to read is Actually she likes contemporary YA, so a query to her might be a good idea. But make sure you read all of her tips on querying first. There is a link on my page.
    Good luck!

  13. Thanks for the advice Heidi and I was still musing and debating and I think I've made my decision. I'm going to go w/ it as one whole story. I could do separate but then I lose the point of the story: Tommy's journey to being a human. Only reading through all four parts can you see his journey. I'll defiantly check out that agent too!
    Thanks for all the advice everyone.

  14. I'm not an expert, but from what I know about YA books, 133,000 words is really high. I would suggest trying to find an organic place to divide the book.