I have been working on my second novel, The Visitor, less over the past month. For a few months I was writing 500 words a day, which helped me get about halfway through the novel I’m working on. I have about 50,000 words and the standard accepted novel length is 60,000-100,000 words. For science-fiction, many agents and publishers will want the word count to be at least 80,000 words. There are also some parts of the book that I already know I want to cut. By the time that is taken care of, I’ll probably have 40,000 words or less.
For that reason, I say I’m half way done. The book started off with the first ten pages, and then slowly developed into a more fleshed out idea. I turned the ten pages into a short story, but then realized I could write a novel and that I was probably just being lazy by sticking to the short story. I started fleshing the story out again, building a world, and now I have filled in some of the biggest gaps my short story had. I feel like the story could be complete with around 50,000 words, but I know that many mainstream publishers are wary of novellas these days. It is hard enough to get a novel published as a nobody, and I don’t want to give myself a hurdle I could just conquer by working on the book for another month or two.
I have been working on blogging more and getting an academic article published, but I don’t want to use that as an excuse for my delays. It isn’t that hard to write 500 words of a book a day, if you have a rough idea of where you want the story to go. Right now, I am at a point where I know what the end result needs to be, but don’t know how to get there. Basically, a character needs to make a discovery, but I don’t have any idea how the character will make that discovery. Once I figure that out, the story is somewhat complete. However, it would then need to be padded to get it to novel length.
Now I wonder if writing only to pad the story might end up diminishing the novel. Maybe I am being lazy and don’t want to write 40,000 more words but I can’t help but think that writing simply for the sake of length is a bad call. I think that rule applies to everything from essays to creative writing. Elseworld, my first novel, is 80,00 words, but I didn’t force it to get to that length. Once the story was told exactly as I wanted it to be, that was where I ended. The Visitor will likely fall 30,000 words short of that and the rest will all be padding. I’ll be the equivalent of the student who adds flowery phrases to pad his essay to reach the word count.
If I am fortunate enough to get Elseworld published and make it a best seller (if being the operative word), I could use my leverage from my first work to publish a novella. Yet my plan was to complete The Visitor and see if I would have better luck getting an agent with it, and then use that as leverage to publish Elseworld. These both come across as pipe dreams, considering how competitive the publishing industry is and how little success I’ve had so far. I feel like I’m creatively stuck, but I have no choice but to keep writing and see what happens. I can’t complain about a lack of success if I don’t try to succeed.