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Acceptability of novel length

by Cheryl L. Walker
(Riverside, CA)

I am a first time novelist and am aware of the warnings about novel length (<100,000 words). I have edited down (from 133,000) and am fixed at 128,000 words. What are the chances of agents/publishers reading my synopsis and first chapters anyway?


If your synopsis captures the interest of an agent, and if the first chapters are so tight, well written, and interesting that an agent cannot put them down, then you will likely be asked to submit the rest, regardless of the length.

However, you have edited your ms. from 133,000 words to 128,000 words--not even 5%.

This suggests to me that you can cut a lot more than you have. You haven't indicated what draft number this is, but in my experience, every first novel manuscript, including my own, could be tightened by 25% without hurting the story.

If you have already had a professional review your ms., and the professional found the work tight and ready, then all you need to know is that the excess words provide the agent with a reason to toss the ms. aside without considering it.

It is difficult enough to get noticed, so why add to the difficulty? Supposing an agent is interested, he or she is likely to tell you that you need to cut the book back before it goes to a publisher anyway. So my advice is to do it now, rather than later, to increase the likelihood of acceptance.

If you have not yet had a professional opinion on your work, I strongly recommend that you do that before sending it out.

I have a $35 service where I provide feedback on the first couple of pages, about as far as anyone will read if the ms is not exceptional, so you might consider at least doing that. If I see nothing to cut in the first two pages, you may not need to worry.

However, if the work can be tightened, there is little point submitting until you do the work. Quick Assessment

Either way, good luck!

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