Fiction by Paolo Bacigalupi

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Posted on Dec 3, 2007 in Blog, Writing | 6 comments

150,000… and counting.

I just hit the 150,000 word mark with my novel. I haven’t gone in to start trimming yet, but I know that some sections will need to grow still and I’ve got some final scenes to write yet, so I’m guessing that the final product will end up being about 160,000 words.

I’ve actually been warned that this can be a problem for publishers, as all those words mean lots of extra pages which mean extra printing costs and higher price points. I’ve heard that the sweet spot these days is between 80 – 100,000 words for a book, but given the number of POV characters and plot points, that isn’t going to happen with this one.

I’ll be curious to find out if I’m actually shooting myself in the foot by writing something this large.


  1. Bah! Worry about your word count later. Get the stuff down first, get it trimmed, polished, etc., and then worry about the word count. ;)

  2. Yeah, at that length, you run the real risk that a publisher will buy it, then hack it into two roughly 80,000 word pieces and publish it as “volume 1” and “volume 2” (that’s if you’re lucky; sometimes they don’t even give a hint on the cover that the first book is only half a novel). This is happening more and more in recent years, as the big chain bookstores are unwilling to sell hardcovers above a certain price point (unless you’re Thomas Pynchon or something).

  3. The Great Scalzi says 100K if memory serves. That’s what I’m aiming for. Good luck on editing that beast!

  4. James Ellroy was once told to cut a manuscript by 30% for reasons of cost. Rather than remove any scenes, he just cut words out of each and every sentence. He liked the prose style that resulted, so he deliberately adopted it for subsequent work. Obviously this approach won’t work for everyone.

  5. This is sort of depressing. I’ve been sitting with this for the last day and a half and it still bums me out. Short of lobotomizing the book, there’s no way it could be cut into two satisfying chunks. And the Ellroy trick… meh.

    It really makes you think about the strange interaction between creative work and commerce.

  6. I have always thought that literature is a piece of art and there is no room for commerce. The content of a book does matter but not the number of words! I think it is awful that writes have to count the number of words in order to sell a book.