Thought of the Day

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Mar 18 2010

There’s absolutely nothing I can do with a 500,000-word novel. If you feel you can divide it into five different novels, then do that and submit or query one at a time. There’s just no way I’m going to find a publisher for a 2,000-page book.

And don’t start arguing that some novelists can get away with it. Maybe they can, but I’m not the agent interested in representing them.


29 responses to “Thought of the Day”

  1. Avatar Kimber An says:

    One only needs to compare the thickness of J.K. Rowling's *first* HARRY POTTER novel to her last to understand what it takes to get a really long novel published.

    Walk into a bookstore and see the HARRY POTTER novels lined up in order of publication.

    In other words, you first must earn your publisher BILLIONS of dollars.

    So, there's nothing wrong with writing a really long novel.

    Shoot, the only reason I want to hit bestseller status is so I can write whatever the heck I want and get it published too!

    Nevertheless, I'm still the kind of girl who barely makes the bare minimum wordcount by the final draft. We're all different.

  2. Avatar Kimber An says:

    Yeah, so break it down into five novels, revise the dickens out of the first novel, and submit that.

    Who knows? Maybe one day…

  3. Avatar Rick Daley says:

    Makes sense to me. So is my 750,000 word epic more in line?

  4. Holy cow!!! Wow that is a lot of words. I agree, make it a series. Thats a huge commitment not only for a publisher to print but a reader to invest time and money in reading.

  5. My guess? About 3/4 of those words could be cut. The best writing takes place during revisions.

  6. Sheesh, and here I am having trouble finishing that 75,000 word novel.

    Wonder how they did it.

  7. Avatar Anonymous says:

    "…but I’m not the agent interested in representing them…"

    I hear you! Because I'm not the reader interested in reading that book either!

  8. Avatar Lydia Sharp says:

    I hope the author of said novel will take a step back and seek to understand why that is a no-no rather than continue to query that hefty thing to other agents.

  9. Avatar Tracy says:

    I have to give the writer kudos though … I would never have been able to stick with the same characters (without a break for a different book and story arc) for 500,000 words! After I get to the 80,000 mark, I start itching to put them to bed in the next 10-20K.

  10. Avatar RCWriterGirl says:

    Well that thought of the day made me laugh. Five hundred thousand words–OMG. I'm not laughing at the poor chap, who I'll give the benefit of the doubt and say was naive and really didn't know.

    But some things are so outside the norm, so beyond the pale, you've got to chuckle.

    Thanks for helping my morning start out well.

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  12. Avatar johnsienoel says:

    As one who is reading Thomas Pynchon's 'Against the Day,' which I think stands at just over 1,000 pages I can't imagine the heft of something twice its size nor the commitment to read. It has taken me nearly a year to complete this tome, and I love Pynchon.

  13. I bet you'd think different if only they'd taken the time to send you a gift with the query, right?

    Like Janet's…

    I'm joking, of course.

  14. Avatar Wendy Qualls says:

    Unfortunately, I suspect there is a correlation between those 500,000 word novels and the writers who spend fifteen years writing The Ultimate Perfect Novel. And who are then heartbroken when you reject it out of hand.

  15. Avatar Ulysses says:

    Wow. You have to admire the stamina required to write a single 500K word book.

  16. Avatar Malia Sutton says:

    I once saw a 400,000 word ms that had been written mostly in dialogue, filled with the worst "said bookisms" you ever saw. I just smiled.

  17. Avatar Bethany says:

    I would like to meet the novel that truly utilized 150k words. If ever I came upon a book more than 4x that size, I'd slap it mercilessly.

  18. Avatar Laurel says:

    Maybe there was a typo in the query and it was 50,000 words.

  19. Avatar Kate Douglas says:

    Sheesh…and here I'm wondering how I'm going to find the 120k words for the WIP due next month…wonder if that writer would loan me a few?

  20. Avatar OfficeGirl says:

    Im having trouble editing 22,000 words. I wouldn't even know where to being with 500,000. Besides that, is'nt it odd that someone has time to write a novel like that? I mean where did they live? Inside a mountain?

  21. To me I almost always settle with a 200-500 page count when choosing a book to read. I never go any higher! Hate to say- I have trouble with making a novel that'd be longer than 50k so am really trying to go for the best quality a novel could be. I wonder how am I going to find a good editor though with no job.

  22. Avatar Teresa says:

    You're looking at the woman who was dying to read Drood until the 1,000+ page tome hit her desk. I almost passed out from the sheer size of it.

    2,000 pages of fiction would give me a seizure. Although I have to agree with the other writers here: I'm ready to chuck my characters after 80,000 words. I would never have the stamina to write 500,000.

    Thanks for today's laugh, I needed it.

  23. Avatar _*rachel*_ says:


    I'm not reading anything longer than maybe 600 pages decently sized font unless there was a shorter previous book and it was really good. Not that I don't like long books; it's just that my definition of a long book is a teensy bit shorter than Les Mis.

  24. Avatar Tahereh says:

    my jaw just fell off my face.


    2,000 pages for ONE NOVEL??

    my eyelids just fell off, too.

  25. Avatar Leigh Lyons says:

    I wonder how much editing the writer did or was it more "500,000 words. Ha! They'll have a seizure before they finish reading the ms and sign me out of fear!"

    I imagine the 500k is a rough draft.

  26. Ouch. Just the thought of 500,000 makes me feel tired.
    I'd need wrist-supports to hold it. How would you even bind such a thing?

    Poor writer. They've probably poured their heart, sweat, blood and tears into the ms.

    Ah well. Go write another one.

  27. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I know someone who's writing a novel that is about 350K at this point. It's dreadful. Redundant and boring, long for the sake of being long. She won't listen to anyone that it's too long because she has this dream of how it will look sitting on a bookshelf.

  28. Avatar Suilan says:

    Well, I do have a 340,000 fantasy manuscript (*duck behind desk*) even though I am quite merciless during revision and try to cut cut cut till my eyes and fingers bleed but there's no way I can reduce the story to a single normal-sized manuscript. So I am rewriting it into a trilogy, making the first volume stand on its own as much as possible (complete with showdown and conclusion), although for the middle volume I don't see how it can be a stand-alone (but then, middle volumes rarely ever are, are they?)

    To make matters worse, my genre is epic fantasy. Wow, not the hottest trend these days, is it? But it's the genre I prefer as a reader, so the first rule is to write what you read, correct? Surely the day will come when everything has been said about vampires and zombies and readers will be looking for stories with a little more scope again?

    As a reader, I prefer novels between 350 and 600 pages, but with fantasy I LOVE trilogies, because fantasy is about exploring an entire world, including several different cultures, religions, species, each with their own history, politics, written + unwritten law and way of explaining the world… I don't think that can be done in 350 pages.

    The other reason why I love trilogies is that I hardly ever get beyond the fourth volume in any series. There was a time 15 years back when every fantasy book I picked up turned out to be one in a never-ending series, like Wheel of Time (almost finished the 4th), Sword of Truth (loved the first three, stopped a few pages into the fourth), Song of Ice and Fire (gave up halfway through second volume when I found out the author was already writing the fifth).

    So I've come to the conclusion that that the ideal length for a fantasy story is 2-4 volumes, 400-600 pages each. For selfish reasons, I do hope I'm not the only one who feels that way :o).

    I know my chances at finding an agent to represent my trilogy are probably next to nil but I still have to finish it (finish fifth draft, then one last polish) while the details are still fresh in my mind. If I interrupt now to write a shorter piece, it'll be very hard to get back to the trilogy.

    So while I do plan on shopping the trilogy once it's polished, I am prepared to write something shorter as I wait for the rejections to come piling in. If I manage to sell the shorter piece, I will have a finished trilogy waiting in the drawer, how cool is that?

    P.S. BTW, I estimate that "The Lord of the Rings" is around 500k, and they managed the squeeze that into 1069 pages in the one-volume paperback edition I own: prologue, maps, appendices and all. Just saying. (*ducking out* ;o)

  29. Avatar J.P. says:

    I love reading epic fantasy series like the Wheel of Time, and The Sword of Truth. When a character dies and I cry then I know that this series has really touched me or when I think about the characters when I am falling asleep at night or in the shower getting ready for work. That only happens with long series for me. I've been reading the Wheel of Time of the past 15 years and I wish I could read it for the next 15 years. I've already re-read the series numerous times. My biggest problem with epic fantasies is that they take way too long in between books 🙂