Tag Archives: Fantasy

Meet Writer Danielle Bowers

Posted by May 6th, 2013

Book Country Member Spotlight Q&A

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“Learning to ignore the doubt and continue on has been the hardest lesson.” –Danielle Bowers

Danielle Bowers is a young adult writer and photographer from the Boston area. She’s currently putting the finishing touches on her debut YA fantasy novel, Salem. She’s known around Book Country for her creative analogies. Take Danielle’s dead-on assessment of Fifty Shades of Grey’s protagonist: “Christian Grey has more issues than National Geographic Magazine.”

Nevena: Thanks for joining us, Danielle. Let’s start with the basics. When did you start writing? What inspires you to carry on?

Danielle: I began writing three years ago this August, which makes me a newbie in the literary world. What has kept me going is the knowledge that writing is a constant learning process, and some day my ability will catch up with my ambition. That day will come if I keep writing.

Nevena: How do you manage to fit writing into your life? I’ve seen your beautiful photographs. What else do you do when you’re not plugging at your WIP?

Danielle: With two children, a husband, and work to consider, making time to write can be a juggling act. I learned early on that scheduling time to write is crucial. Too many people say they would write a book if they had the time. I don’t have spare time. I make time.  In the evenings when my husband is watching television, I’m writing. If I’m at a concert and waiting to be called to photograph, I’m writing. If my kids are occupied coloring for a few minutes, I’m writing.

One of the things I do when I’m not writing is photography, as you noticed. It’s a form of storytelling in of itself. My job is to capture the moment, to show the viewer the story without saying a word. Writing and photography mesh well as hobbies/careers, and what I see on the road becomes material for my books.

I also blog, write articles, treatments for comic books and film, and manage the social media accounts for a couple of businesses.

Nevena: You seem to have a lot on your plate. Let’s talk more about your book, Salem. It’s set in Salem, Massachusetts and is rooted in the history and lore of the Salem Witch Trials. What drew you to that moment in history?

Danielle: I live close to Salem, and as a history buff I couldn’t help but be drawn to the lore. When I found out that it wasn’t just Salem that held witch trials I was fascinated.  For two hundred years across several countries and continents, there were similar witch trials. Close to 10,000 people accused of witchcraft were killed during that time. It wasn’t a stretch to wonder what would’ve happened if there really were witches involved.

Nevena: Liam, Salem’s protagonist, is a young witch who flees Scotland to escape the Brotherhood, aka the bad guys. How did Liam’s story come to you?

Danielle: The entire idea came to me when I saw a runner out on a winter day. He stopped at a light, steam rising off his skin. The idea of magic being shed like body heat clicked, and my imagination took it from there. Liam’s personal storyline within Salem came to me slowly.  I wanted to show the reader both sides of the war between the witches and the witch hunters. The best way to do so was to have Liam born into The Brotherhood and have “the brothers” turn on him.

Nevena: How has the novel changed over time?

Danielle: I wrote the first version of Salem two years ago. It was simpler, like a plain white t-shirt compared to an expensive sweater. With every rewrite I’ve gotten to know the characters better, added nuances and depth. Several characters have been cut and the remaining ones refined. The core storyline has matured with time, and I’m finally happy with how Salem has turned out.

I’ve learned the proverbial mid-book slump is nothing compared to the revision blues. The book is finished, and now you have the job of making it readable. You read it and become convinced it’s the worst book ever written and you’re wasting your time. Learning to ignore the doubt and continue on has been the hardest lesson.

Nevena
: What achievements are you most proud of as a writer?

Danielle: The blog I kept on Rolling Stone Magazine’s website. The magazine wanted to do an Almost Famous type trip, and I was chosen to follow a country music tour to photograph and blog. It was a mess: I wrote in the back of vans, at concerts, in bars, and even at five star restaurants while we were on the road, but I did it. Seeing my name in the magazine with a page dedicated to the trip was unreal.

Nevena: Wow! So why are you on Book Country? How has it helped you grow as a writer?

Danielle: I found out about Book Country from Colleen Lindsay on Twitter. She was looking for beta fish to test the site, and I signed up. At that time, I was a brand new writer and I was terrible. That is no joke, if there was a mistake to be made, I was doing it. Without Book Country and the friends I made here while getting started, I would have become frustrated and given up within a year. In almost every review there was praise for what I was doing right, and advice to correct what I was doing wrong. It was like having a coach giving pep talks and a cheerleading squad on the sidelines cheering me on.

Nevena: I like that imagery! What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Danielle: When I first started writing I would draft a few chapters, then agonize over them for weeks. Finally, someone on Book Country told me to finish writing the book and then edit.

Three chapters aren’t an entire story, so finish it before editing because you’ll make hundreds of changes to the story over the course of the book.

Nevena: So keep focused on the big picture. Is there anything else you want the community to know about you?

Danielle: I think putting raisins in cookies should be a criminal offense.

Nevena: LOL! Thanks for chatting with me, Danielle!

Connect with Danielle Bowers on Book Country and follow her on Twitter @DanielleEBowers. If you want to know what happens when witches fight back their inquisitors, check out her novel, Salem.

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Meet Writer LeeAnna Holt

Posted by March 18th, 2013

Book Country Member Q&A

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“[W]riting is work. Hard work. You will love it, hate it, and bitch about it; but if you keep going, you truly love to write.” –LeeAnna Holt

LeeAnna Holt is a fantasy writer from Fairfield, California. She’s currently working on her first novel, the epic fantasy Hands of Ash.

Nevena: Thanks for joining me, LeeAnna. Tell me, when did you start writing?  What keeps you going?

LeeAnna: According to my mother, I started writing before I could even hold a pencil properly. Is she a reliable source? I believe so since she waved one of my old spiral-bound notebooks filled with childish, fake-cursive lines under my nose. It’s written in Crayola.

When I was eighteen, I realized I wasn’t half bad at this writing thing and it could be a plausible career option. I love words. I love books. I love writing. Why not? It wasn’t like I hadn’t been doing it my whole life already.

Then I took a look at my novel I started in high school and said, “Maybe I should take some classes.”

Nevena: How do you fit writing into your life? What do you do when you’re not writing?

LeeAnna: I carry around a notebook so that I can write whenever I get the chance. Now that I’m married and home more often, I have more opportunities to actually sit down and do real work. I don’t have any kids (yet) and I don’t work full time, so I try to sit down for at least a half hour every day to work on writing, editing, or research.

Okay, I lied about not having kids. My hound thinks he’s a seventy-pound furry toddler.

Nevena: Aww. In your bio, you write that “the sci-fi vein has influenced” your work even though you mostly write fantasy. Tell us more about that.

LeeAnna: Ah, science fiction. It becomes engrained in your DNA when you’re raised by a Trekkie whether you like it or not. Before the History Channel, it was always the Sci Fi Channel. Pair that with Disney princess movies and non-fiction historical texts, and at some point I began to wonder what the effect of technology would have on a fairy land, or a land where magic is the major tool. I had yet to find any fantasy that really addressed these issues. So, instead of using planets and spaceships, I decided to place my book in a swords-and-sorcery realm to play with this theme.

As my reading tastes developed, so did the influences on my book. One thing that is consistent is that I’m drawn to writers who have their own distinct voices. It’s what has influenced my writing the most.

Nevena: What are you working on right now?

LeeAnna:  My current WIP, Hands of Ash, is taking up all my time because I want to query it soon. I’ve also started making an outline of its sequel, Ties of Blood and Ink. So far, I’ve planned for my Descendants series to be six books, three installments of two volumes each. I have a vague idea of the main B-plot, the main characters, and the antagonist of each. Still trying to flesh out what the highs and lows will be to make sure I structure them properly.

Nevena: Wow. What have you learned as you’ve created the series?

LeeAnna: That writing is work. Hard work. You will love it, hate it, and bitch about it; but if you keep going, you truly love to write. Like all art, you must continue to learn to improve. You must do it often, every day if you can. I improve with every thousand words I put down. To get my book refined, I still have a lot of editing to do.

But I chug along because I am determined.

Nevena: That’s the spirit. Do you have any writing quirks?

LeeAnna: I use a typewriter and can only write and edit in a linear fashion. Bouncing around the story only confuses me, especially since I do a lot of pre-planning. And most of my pre-planning is in my head. I don’t keep a lot of notes. That is probably why I can only write linearly.

Nevena: What’s the hardest part about being a writer?

LeeAnna: Working for long hours with distractions like the internet, my dog, TV, and video games. I even procrastinate with chores. I know writing is work, but sometimes it feels like an indulgence since “nothing” is getting done. Eliminating distractions and unnecessary guilt is definitely hard.

Nevena: Why are you a Book Country member?

LeeAnna: I learned about Book Country from my writing professor when it went into open beta. He thought it would be good for those of us who use the crutch of genre in our writing. (Don’t worry. He was supportive of our efforts.) I’m glad I joined because it’s the one place I’ve found valuable advice for my work. No ego stroking, just what a writer looking to improve needs. Oh, and all the regulars are pretty nice.

Nevena: Hehe, I think so, too. What should the community know about you that they don’t already?

LeeAnna: My husband complains that I can’t turn off. Movies, TV, books, and video games are all subjected to my writerly brain. He says it’s a bit like living with Sherlock. I say the wrong thing and end up offending everyone because my powers of comprehension are just too strong. Like that time I went to see Avatar with him. Good times. Good times.

Nevena: LOL! Thank you for being part of the spotlight, LeeAnna. Happy writing.

Connect with LeeAnna on Book Country. Outside of the Book Country realm, you can find her at her blog, and read her hysterical reviews of the Mortal Instruments urban fantasy books. (Hint: she doesn’t hold them in high regard.) Say hi to her on Twitter, at @blewskymoon.

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Meet Writer Jamie Wyman

Posted by February 25th, 2013

Book Country Member Spotlight Q&A

jamie_wyman_author_sm1“I love that moment when lightning strikes and an idea just gels into perfection.” –Jamie Wyman

Jamie Wyman is a fantasy and horror writer from Phoenix who’s been with Book Country since the very beginning. Two weeks ago, she broke the news that her debut urban fantasy Technical Difficulties, which she workshopped on the site, was picked up by Entangled Publishing. We got in touch with Jamie to congratulate her and find out how she’s been doing since the announcement. (I highly recommend Jamie’s post about the book deal to all aspiring authors; it’s both heart-warming and informative.)

Jamie is known by many names. Here, she asked we call her “The Omnipotent Despot to All Things Peachy.”

Nevena: Congratulations on the acquisition, Jamie! What has your life been like since the big news became public?

Jamie: Thanks! Life has been mostly normal but with a lot more squeeing. There have been a few surreal moments, including my first piece of “fan mail.” Another editor who read the book on submission didn’t get it to her acquisitions board in time, but she emailed me to let me know how much she enjoyed the book. That made my morning! And I’ve been talking with publicists. Seriously? I have publicists. Totally surreal.

Nevena: It does sound surreal. Congrats again. Now, tell us more aboutTechnical Difficulties. What transformations has it gone through since the first draft? Did you have to kill any “darlings”?

JamieTechnical Difficulties is an urban fantasy following Catherine Sharp, an IT professional with a personal debt to the Greek Goddess of Discord, Eris. When Cat discovers that her soul is a chip in Eris’s poker game, she has to turn the tables on four trickster gods who are vying for her soul.

There have been more than ten revision passes on it at this point, eight of which I did before querying agents. The opening scene and the structure at the end are the only major changes from the rough draft, and those were based on feedback from my agent—the stellar Jennie Goloboy at Red Sofa Literary agency. She and my beta readers gave me spectacular critiques.

And yes, I had to kill darlings, but the book is better this way.

Nevena: What do you wish you’d been told about getting acquired and working with an editor?

Jamie: “No, seriously, Jamie. When I say you need patience, I’m talking epic amounts.” Patience does not come naturally to me. The past four years of working toward publication have helped with that, but sometimes it’s still not enough.

Nevena: Well, your efforts have paid off! What draws you to the urban fantasy genre? What cliché would you most like to see erased from it?

Jamie: If fantasy is all about escapism, urban fantasy is a staycation. It takes these old fairy tales and plunks them down into the middle of reality. This leads to all sorts of questions. How do wizards interact with technology? What happens when a satyr lands in Las Vegas with a trickster god? It’s such a fertile playground!

As to clichés, I think the one that bothers me the most is the “rape as initiation” trope. Male leads jump through all sorts of hoops to earn their stripes in the supernatural world, but it seems that women are—more often than not—tested with rape.  It’s ubiquitous and most times not integral to the plot.

Nevena: This is one cliché I’d like to see banished from the genre as well! Tell me, when did you start writing?

Jamie: I’ve been telling stories since I was in single digits. My grandma used to record me telling them. Later I filled notebooks with short stories, scripts, poetry…a lot of them terrible. I didn’t write my first novel, though, until 2008. It was crap. I got better, though.

Nevena: What’s your favorite part of the writing process?

Jamie: I love that moment when lightning strikes and an idea just gels into perfection. Sometimes this comes in the brainstorming/plotting/pre-visualization part. Sometimes during drafting. Other times editing. Usually it’s in the shower.

Nevena: Why did you join Book Country? How has it helped you grow as a writer?

Jamie: I needed someone to look at my work with a craft perspective. When Colleen put out the call for betas when Book Country launched, I couldn’t volunteer fast enough.

Book Country helped me learn to trust my voice and my instincts. Many times the comments on the site would confirm what I thought was wrong (or right) with a piece. While it helped me develop a thicker skin, it also taught me how to take a compliment. Seriously, you don’t think about that, but I’m a very self-deprecating person. That’s what my whole sense of humor is based on. So when I started getting positive feedback, I had to learn to accept it rather than bat it away with the negative.

Nevena: Sounds awesome. What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Jamie: What writer Neil Gaiman said once on an episode of Arthur: “Don’t judge your story; you’ve just started writing it. Trust your story. Tell it because you’re the only one who can.”

Nevena: What’s next? When will your novel “hit the shelves”?

JamieTechnical Difficulties will hit a digital device near you. (It’s early stages, so the release date hasn’t been set yet.) I’ve also just learned that one of my short stories will be appearing in an anthology later this year. But I can’t give details about that project yet. Stay tuned!

Nevena: So secretive! Get us the details when you are at liberty to say more. Is there anything else you want the community to know about you?

Jamie: I’m still not sure what the hell I’m doing. I make this up as I go along.

Connect with Jamie on Book Country, and catch up with news about her upcoming novel at her blog. Follow her on Twitter @beegirlblue

Image © Eric Fiallos

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Meet Book Country Member Herb Mallette

Posted by February 19th, 2013

Book Country Member Spotlight Q&A

herb_mallette_bookcountry_member_3“No matter how successful you might become as a writer, you need to retain your sense of humor.” –Herb Mallette

You might recognize Herb Mallette as the glasses-wearing cartoon avatar known for his pithy contributions to the Book Country discussion forums and his thoughtful peer reviews. He’s also a lifelong writer from San Antonio, and has been editing professionally for the past twenty-five years. He’s a big science fiction and fantasy fan (some of his favorite writers include Jack Vance, Michael Shea, Iain M. Banks, and Edgar Rice Burroughs), and has a wicked sense of humor. Last week I chatted with Herb about his writing life, his love of science fiction and fantasy, and his soft spot for Pixar movies. 

Nevena: How and why did you start writing?

Herb: As a child, I loved to read, write, and draw. I wrote my first story at age five on a page in Dr. Seuss’s My Book about Me. I started drawing comic books around seven, and by the end of middle school, I was determined to be either a writer or a comic book artist. Because I had the fortune or misfortune to be good friends with a kid whose artistic talents vastly exceeded mine, I mistakenly concluded that I wasn’t cut out to be an artist. So in the tenth grade, when my chemistry teacher re-ran a particularly boring filmstrip, instead of watching it I started my first novel. By the time I graduated, I’d finished two books and become addicted to it.

Nevena: You write fantasy. What draws you to it?

Herb: Fantasy and science fiction inundated my childhood with realms so colorful and exciting that I had no choice but to pursue them. I used to write in both genres. Nowadays I find fantasy more liberating because it allows me to make up all the rules.

Nevena: Is there a cliché that you’d like to see erased from the genre?

Herb: The dour, gruff dwarf is probably my least favorite fantasy cliché, but I don’t know that I’d eliminate it—to each his own.

Nevena: Could you tell us more about your own fiction? What are you currently working on?

Herb: Right now I’m writing a prequel to my four-book Delvonian series. The existing books start with The Last Tragedy and wrap up with a trilogy, The Aveliad. The prequel features four characters from The Aveliad on their first adventure together, when they’re just forming the relationships we see unfold in the trilogy.

In my work, I aim for a high level of adventure sprinkled with human commentary. It’s very important to me to be entertaining, and only slightly less important to provoke thought in readers who want to be so provoked.

Nevena: Wow, that’s poetic! Why should Book Country members read and review The Last Tragedy, the book you’ve posted to the site?

Herb: People should read The Last Tragedy if they’re looking for clever, engaging characters moving through an unusual world in a beguilingly entertaining plot. The good guys are witty and resourceful; the villain exquisitely malicious. As for reviewing it, people should do that if the excerpt on Book Country makes them want to say something.

Nevena: Sounds good! What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered in your writing? How did you overcome it?

Herb: Real life. I have a day job and a family in a world that, if you watch the news, is often quite depressing. Writing is a way that I can raise a light against the gloom, both for myself and, hopefully, for others. But it’s sometimes hard to find the time, energy, and spirit to stay brave in the things I am trying to express. As for overcoming… Well, the world needs heroes, and when I was a kid, many of mine were writers, so I push onward.

Nevena: What’s your favorite part of the writing process?

Herb: Surprising myself, especially at the end of a book. I love getting to an outlined event, realizing it doesn’t do what it needs to do, and then hitting on a solution that whoops the pants off the original plan.

Nevena: Why did you join Book Country? How has it helped you in your growth as a writer?

Herb: Writing about writing helps remind me (or, if you prefer, helps me delude myself into thinking) that I do kind of know what I’m doing. Reading about writing helps me learn from the perspectives of others.

Nevena: What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Herb: At a book signing, I told sci-fi/fantasy writer Michael Moorcock that he was indirectly responsible for my writing several bad fantasy novels in high school. Without batting an eye, he replied, “As it happens, I’ve been directly responsible for several myself.” That wasn’t exactly advice, but it showed me that no matter how successful you might become as a writer, you need to retain your sense of humor and not take yourself too seriously.

Nevena: Is there anything you want the community to know about you?

Herb: I am ridiculously susceptible to the emotional effects of certain movies. I have cried buckets at almost all of the last several Pixar films, for instance, as well as the recent return of The Muppets to the big screen. When filmmakers manage to put real human beauty onto the screen—especially through elements of the fantastic—something just turns a switch of joy in me until I am a quivering wreck. My favorite movie scene of all time is the asteroid field sequence from The Empire Strikes Back. Just listening to the soundtrack for that scene makes me stream tears, and there have been times when I’ve gotten the accompanying music stuck in my head at work and literally had difficulty concentrating on my job. Please don’t tell my boss.

Nevena: Pinky promise! Thanks for sharing, Herb, and for being such a spirited voice in the community.

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On Word Count and Novel Length

Posted by March 9th, 2011

Size does matter, especially in fiction!

I sat down recently with several fiction editors and hammered out a comprehensive list of suggested word counts by genre & sub-genre. As you read through this, keep in mind three important things:

  • These are suggested word counts; rules get broken all the time.
  • These suggested word counts will most often apply to debut writers; successfully published authors are the ones who end up successfully breaking the rules.
  • If you are planning to e-publish only, and your book will never be printed out on actual paper, these guidelines aren’t nearly as important.

Something I saw a lot in queries as an agent were word counts that exceeded 100k. Often, a manuscript exceeded this by a considerable amount: I’ve seen word counts of 140k, 160k and one writer actually told me about a YA manuscript he’d written that was 188k.

Somewhere out there a myth developed – especially amongst science fiction and fantasy writers – that a higher word count was better. Writers see big fat fantasies on the shelf and think that they have to write a book just as hefty to get published. And sometimes a writer just writes a long book because they aren’t yet a very good writer. Good writers learn how to pare a manuscript down to its most essential elements, carving away the word count fat that marks so many beginning writers. And the fact of the matter is, most of those “big fat fantasy” books you see on the shelf actually only have a word count of about 100k to 120k.

The exceptions are usually authors who’ve already had an established track record of sales with previous – shorter – books, like George R.R. Martin. And, yes, once in a great while you will see an incredibly long debut novel. But the writing has to be absolutely stellar; knock-down, drag-out, kick-you-in-the-teeth amazing. (A good example is Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian, which clocks in at just about 240,000 words.)

And I should also point out here that the longer a successful writer has been with a publishing house and the more actual dollars that author brings to the house (and the bigger that author’s advances get), the more clout that author may have regarding being able to keep his or her novel intact, without taking advantage of the editorial guidance being offered. And that is never a good thing for the book. Editors exist for a damned good reason, and no author is ever such a fabulous writer that a good editor can’t find things to make better in his or her manuscript.

There was a time about ten or so years ago when bigger word counts were the norm and not the exception. Like everything, the book industry goes through trends. But these days, editors of adult fiction – even editors of epic fantasy – squirm a little when presented with a manuscript that runs over 110k words. Books with a higher page count cost more to physically produce, resulting in a higher per-book manufacturing cost, meaning even more copies will need to be sold to make the estimated P&L work.

Publishers want to make money; bookstores want to make money.
Do the math.

When you search around the Internet for information on word counts, you get a lot of conflicting information, some of it just plain wrong, and often this information is coming from sources that would appear reputable to a writer who didn’t know any better. One article I read last week that was posted online at a major writing magazine actually insists that the average novel (non-genre) is 150,000 words. I have no idea where the writer of the article got his or her information, but that’s simply untrue. An average novel length is between 80k and 100k, again, depending upon the genre.

Word counts for different kinds of novels vary, but there is are general rules of thumb for fiction that a writer can use when trying to figure out just how long is too long. For the purposes of this post, I’m only talking about YA, middle-grade and adult fiction here. And bear in mind that there are always exceptions, but good general rules of thumb would be as follows:

middle grade fiction = Anywhere from 25k to 40k, with the average at 35k

YA fiction = For mainstream YA, anywhere from about 45k to 80k; paranormal YA or YA fantasy can occasionally run as high as 120k but editors would prefer to see them stay below 100k. The second or third in a particularly bestselling series can go even higher. But it shouldn’t be word count for the sake of word count.

paranormal romance = 85k to 100k

  • romance = 85k to 100k
  • category romance = 55k to 75k
  • cozy mysteries = 65k to 90k
  • horror = 80k to 100k

western = 80k to 100k (Keep in mind that almost no editors are buying Westerns these days.)

mysteries, thrillers and crime fiction = A newer category of light paranormal mysteries and hobby mysteries clock in at about 75k to 90k. Historical mysteries and noir can be a bit shorter, at 80k to 100k. Most other mystery/thriller/crime fiction falls right around the 90k to 100k mark.

mainstream/commercial fiction/thrillers = Depending upon the kind of fiction, this can vary: chick lit runs anywhere from 80k word to 100k words; literary fiction can run as high as 120k but lately there’s been a trend toward more spare and elegant literary novels as short as 65k. Anything under 50k is usually considered a novella, which isn’t something agents or editors ever want to see unless the editor has commissioned a short story collection. (Agent Kristin Nelson has a good post about writers querying about manuscripts that are too short.)

science fiction & fantasy = Here’s where most writers seem to have problems. Most editors I’ve spoken to recently at major SF/F houses want books that fall into the higher end of the adult fiction you see above; a few of them told me that 100k words is the ideal manuscript size for good space opera or fantasy. For a truly spectacular epic fantasy, some editors will consider manuscripts over 120k but it would have to be something extraordinary. I know at least one editor I know likes his fantasy big and fat and around 180k. But he doesn’t buy a lot at that size; it has to be astounding. (Read: Doesn’t need much editing.) And regardless of the size, an editor will expect the author to to be able to pare it down even further before publication. To make this all a little easier, I broke it down even further below:

—> hard sf = 90k to 110k
—> space opera = 90k to 120k
—> epic/high/traditional/historical fantasy = 90k to 120k
—> contemporary fantasy = 90k to 100k
—> romantic SF = 85k to 100k
—> urban fantasy = 90k to 100k
—> new weird = 85k to 110k
—> slipstream = 80k to 100k
—> comic fantasy = 80k to 100k
—> everything else = 90k to 100k

Editors will often make exceptions for sequels, by the way. Notice that the page count in both J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series and George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series gets progressively higher. But even authors who have been published for years and should know better will routinely turn in manuscripts that exceed the editor’s requested length by 30k to 50k words, which inevitably means more work for that author because editors don’t back down. If a contract calls for a book that is 100k words and you turn in one that is 130k, expect to go back and find a way to shave 30k words off that puppy before your manuscript is accepted.

Remember that part of the payout schedule of an author’s advance often dangles on that one important word: acceptance.

I cannot stress highly enough that there are always exceptions to every rule, especially in SF/F. Jacqueline Carey and Peter F. Hamilton, among others, have proven this quite successfully. If an agent finds a truly outstanding book that runs in the 200k range (yes, it happens!), he or she may advise your cutting the manuscript into two books to make life easier for everyone. But for a debut novelist who is trying to catch the eye of an agent or editor for the first time? Err on the side of caution with your word count.

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