In the past few weeks, I’ve been dedicating most of my time to finishing my sci-fi novel, Mark of the Pterren, which is divided into three sections. I call these sections “books” and I officially finished Book I of Mark of the Pterren this weekend. Book I is 181,000 words long– which is almost as long as Twilight: Breaking Dawn (192,000 words).
Facing the massive word count of my novel made me a bit neurotic. Well, maybe a tad more than “a bit.” Maybe I kind of freaked.
I had to stop writing and do some heavy analysis, including questioning the idea of writing the book to begin with.
By the end of my freaking (and researching word counts for other books), I had to argue with myself for a while as to just how long I could let this sci-fi novel be. Since A Game of Thrones is approximately 300,000 words long, I initially decided this would be my cut-off length for my work in progress. But since Gone with the Wind is 424,000 words, I thought I could give myself a bit more leeway, and make 350,000 words my cut-off length for Mark of the Pterren.
And it just so happens that long books are in vogue right now, as evidenced by this 900-page debut novel by Garth Risk Hallberg that just sold for almost $2 million to the publishing company Knopf.
I don’t know what his word count is on that novel, but I’m guessing it’s a bit higher than A Game of Thrones.
Hallberg is only 34 years old– and yeah, his book deal definitely reminds me of Chad Harbach’s, who received more than $650,000 from Little, Brown and Co. for The Art of Fielding. (And I loved The Art of Fielding, so I’m super keen to read Hallberg’s City on Fire.)
Then there is Eleanor Catton’s Booker Prize-winning novel, The Luminaries, which is the longest novel (at 834 pages) to ever win a Booker Prize (my personal favorite of all the literary prizes) and she is also the youngest author to ever receive one. Eleanor Catton is all of 28. She is also completely enchanting, as I discovered when I watched her interview with Jeffrey Brown on the PBS NewsHour.
Of course, it’s not the length of these books that makes them good, but the exquisite prose, and the story itself. Write a book good enough, and people will read it, no matter how long it is.
As I finished the first section of Mark of the Pterren, this was the mantra that helped me push through and keep writing. Not only did I finish Book I, but I have three and a half chapters in Book II as well.
I won’t be showing my sci-fi manuscript to any agents (which means I won’t be showing it to any publishers, either), though I still get a thrill out of reading articles about book deals. Two million dollars for a 900-page debut literary novel? Wow!! That’s incredibly awesome.