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Jeff Potts

My newest dilemma

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I'm in the process of compiling my "Book 1" project from the various pieces and parts that I've written independently, and putting them into individual chapters.  Each chapter is an individual document.  It make is easier for me to move back-and-forth across the cloud for a bunch of technical reasons.

 

As it stands right now, I'm looking at a manuscript that's sitting at 150,000 - 200,000 words.

 

I've seriously considered some of the advice I received here, and look to maybe target the Young Adult market.  I thought this might be adult fantasy fiction, but after discussing it with my wife, and looking at the manuscript, I'm thinking YA is the way to go.  I think @suspensewriteris on the mark - this isn't made for the adult market.  It might be read by adults, but it's not targeted for them.  I'm good with that.  This is also bolstered by some information I gleaned from my wife.  She's on staff at a couple of the elementary schools in our school district.  She's telling me that kids in 5th grade are reading Lord of the Rings - it's all the rage.

 

So...umm...yeah.  Young adult is where I'm going.  And I get the sense that a 175,000 word novel isn't going to sell in YA.

 

I'm beginning to think that my working "Book 1" should probably be "Book 1 & 2."  I'm even eyeing a good place to lay down the dividing line.  But, dividing the novel leaves me with two problems.  Book 1, to me, seems to be non-stop action and adventure from start to finish, with a few chapters here for exposition.  Book 2 has action, but it starts from the middle to the end.  The beginning actually takes place in a peaceful realm.  While it has lots of interesting things about it, it doesn't follow the kinetic pace of the first.

 

If I take some of the action from Book 1, I drop word count.  If I don't, I'm lacking an engaging set of events that will get me through what might be perceived as a lull shortly after.  In short, I don't want to lead my readers on thinking that Book 2 will have the same exact pacing as Book 1.  And...I don't want to skimp on the size of Book 1.

 

Book 1 will be roughly 70, 000 - 80,000 words.  Book two is shaping up to be 80,000-100,000 words.

 

Any advice?  Am I overanalyzing this?  I want to try and sort this out, and have this planned out before I get to the point where I'm sending query letters.  Because I get a sense, from everything I've read and seeh, agents aren't interested in you unless you have a complete manuscript ready to go.

Edited by Jeff Potts
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70-80 for YA is about right. And for a 1st novel by a new writer.

 

I would suggest if you have not done it, you do a scene by scene breakdown of the whole piece. This will help you see how the plot rises and falls. 

 

There maybe potential to insert new bits that focus on

character development to slow down the pace on bk1.

Each book stood be stand alone because people do not necessarily read a series in order.

 

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Those are good ballpark word counts for YA. 
 

I don’t think people necessarily expect the same exact pacing book to book in YA. I don’t read a lot of YA, and I never never read the whole series, but the first two books of the Hunger Games, for instance, had very different pacing from what I remember.

 

The thing with YA, is that from everything that I’ve heard from the Authortubers that I watch, YA is expected to focus on characters and relationships rather than events. That’s not to say it can’t be full of epic events, but a YA reader is going to tend to pick up the next book to find out what happens to the characters interpersonally, and good character stuff can happen during quiet parts of the story.

Edited by PenName

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10 hours ago, PenName said:

Those are good ballpark word counts for YA. 
 

I don’t think people necessarily expect the same exact pacing book to book in YA. I don’t read a lot of YA, and I never never read the whole series, but the first two books of the Hunger Games, for instance, had very different pacing from what I remember.

 

The thing with YA, is that from everything that I’ve heard from the Authortubers that I watch, YA is expected to focus on characters and relationships rather than events. That’s not to say it can’t be full of epic events, but a YA reader is going to tend to pick up the next book to find out what happens to the characters interpersonally, and good character stuff can happen during quiet parts of the story.

 

Well, thats good.  Because the main arc of the story is the growth of specific characters.

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9 hours ago, Jeff Potts said:

 

Well, thats good.  Because the main arc of the story is the growth of specific characters.

Definitely YA! :)

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Better that you've decided on a book 1 and a book 2.

You know, I think that you're worrying and over-analysing too much.

And it sounds like book 2 is what it is, it doesn't have to be as action packed as book 1. 

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Fifteen years ago, I started writing a fantasy novel. It grew too long and I had to split it. This introduced problems that I had to handle, which might not be your problems, but here goes anyway.

 

1. Villain. My plan was to reveal the true villain in the second half of the story; prior to that, his true role was secret. What that means is that I had to create a secondary antagonist for the first half. I chose an adversary of the true villain and made my hero get caught in the middle of a power struggle. This new antagonist was actually a good person who could not see that the protagonist was becoming a hero - she saw his flaws and not his potential. Using an ethical antagonist made for a much richer story.

 

2. Story arc. I needed to break the character development of my hero into two parts so that I would have two complete stories. But that meant that I had two half stories, not two full stories! One technique I used to remedy this was to take the classical four-act structure with all its plot points, analyze my substantially written story and construct an outline from it. (This is novel outlining in reverse!) Then I compared my actual outline to the classical ideal structure and looked for plot points that I missed, or were underdeveloped. I added scenes, fleshed out characters, etc. to fill in what was lacking. It worked. 

 

There is an added benefit to decucing the outline of your story. Having that on hand will make it much easier to write a story synopsis for your book proposals.

 

3. POV. I decided to switch the POV character for most of the second novel to an associate of my hero (his lawyer). This gave a different feel to the story, making it more interesting.

 

4. Editing for length. Despite all this, I still had to trim 20,000 words or so. I recommend reading Wright Tight by William Brohaugh. I have read it about three times. My prose is much crisper, less verbose and more logical and readable as a result.

 

My current WIP is YA, too. It is a lot of fun to write teenage characters, something I had not done before. (It helps that when I started it, I had three teenage daughters to use as fodder! Now only one is still a teen...) I am at 80,000 words but still have one third of the book to write. I am determined to keep it under 120,000 words. (My first book was like 160,000! I am slowly learning how to tame my pen.)

 

May the Lord bless your results!

 

Paul

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I feel your pain! The story spills and spills, and then has to fit into a box.  I have 500 000 words.  Much of it is verbosity. Some of it is unnecessary detail because I don’t trust my reader, or I expect them to read my mind about why I want them to know this. 

I just read from Thomas Umstadt Jr. at the Steve Laube Agency, that it’s hard to read the label when you are inside the bottle.  That’s why I’m saving my pennies for a full substantial edit.  

It sounds like you have the right ideas, and you’ll definitely get help here!  And I’ll glean help too, so thank you for asking!  

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My current thought with Book 2 is to start from a battle scene that leads to the ending of book 1, but from a different character POV.  THat's where I re-hook the reader, and reintroduce the characters.

 

After reading the responses here, I'm less concerned now about starting in a low spot with the next book.  There is a lot of interesting stuff, just not a lot of sword-swinging.

 

And if a couple of you could, do a quick critique on my first chapter redo in the Critique section.  I need some feedback.

 

Thanks.

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12 minutes ago, Nicola said:

 That’s why I’m saving my pennies for a full substantial edit.  

I would start with a lot of self-editing. At 500,000 words, you are looking at something like $8,000 or more for a full edit. I would cut half, then hire the editor! (Unless you are rich.)

 

Paul

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15 minutes ago, Nicola said:

I feel your pain! The story spills and spills, and then has to fit into a box.  I have 500 000 words.  Much of it is verbosity. Some of it is unnecessary detail because I don’t trust my reader, or I expect them to read my mind about why I want them to know this. 

I just read from Thomas Umstadt Jr. at the Steve Laube Agency, that it’s hard to read the label when you are inside the bottle.  That’s why I’m saving my pennies for a full substantial edit.  

 

Is definitely split and trim.

 

One of those videos from the agents at Boomends was talking about 250000 words being unpublishable.   You're twice that.

 

Find a spot that ends after something profound or after some sort of high drama or action, and stop there.  Then figure out how to restart after that.

 

I deal with BIG software projects, so understanding how to work an unwieldy manuscript is not that hard for me.  500000 words gives you a minimum of 5 novels in a series.  Don't try to work that thing all at once.  Use smaller bites.

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Yes, this is a trilogy, at least!  Each with a separate arc leading up to the battle at the end.  I still have the hard work of trimming each part, of mining those 500 000 words to mean something.

I was thinking today how human limitations, universal human limitations create the frame work for our creativity.  In any culture anywhere on the globe, a human telling a story requires certain elements and cannot go on longer than there is wood to burn in the community fire. The audience just can't attend longer than that.  

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