mandag den 20. september 2010

When is a story long enough?

Over this rather wet and cold Danish summer, my cosy mystery, The Cosy Knave, has come along quite nicely. In less than three months I have written a first draft – a very drafty one – of c 65,000 words, leading me to the important question:

When is a story long enough?

It is rather difficult to find out what publishers want – some seem to want at least 80,000 words no matter what kind of novel while others specify that for cosy mysteries a length of 60-75,000 words is suitable.

If I knew which publisher would buy my story, it would be much simpler, of course, but I am afraid I am not quite there yet. So what can I do but tell my story and add a full stop when I feel I have written the ending?

Besides, there is much dialogue which means that with double line spacing (which English publishers seem to want) it is a manuscript of around 240 pages.

So what next? Editing, editing, editing. Some days the manuscript will grow, other days it will shrink - and hopefully the quality will improve steadily.

Should there be a reader or two who are curious (preferably native speakers of English), I could use a few beta readers:

1) to tell me when I have got the language wrong. Of course I do now and then, and I´d rather you tell me than some fiendish editor.

2) to give me advice with regard to the environment. I have never been to Yorkshire and though it may not matter too much in a cosy caper, I would appreciate help from anyone living in the northern parts of England.

Just send me an e-mail in case ...
Thank you very much to old and new friends who have offered to help me with my manuscript. I could use one or two more with some local knowledge of Yorkshire, but with regard to language I think I am in good hands.

12 kommentarer:

....Petty Witter sagde ...

I never realised writing a book was so complicated. As a reader, you never think about the spacing etc.

Margot Kinberg sagde ...

Dorte - I know exactly what you mean about when a manuscript is long enough. I face the same thing when I write because I don't write long novels. It's always a challenge, but I agree with you: say what you have to say and then stop. You can always go back and add in later.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams sagde ...

It's a bunch to think about, isn't it?

My Myrtle Clover books are about 65,000. I'm under contract for 75,000 for the Memphis BBQ books. Sounds like you're on target!

Dorte H sagde ...

Tracy: some days I think writing the book is the simplest part of it all. And I am sure many writers will agree with me that selling it is so much worse.

Margot: the odd thing is that it seems many modern readers *want* short books (convenient for busy people).

Elizabeth: as I only have rather loose ideas which publishers I aim for, I suppose there is nothing to do but write the story I want to tell ;)

Clarissa Draper sagde ...

I'd be happy to read a chapter. I can do it privately if you like. I don't have to give my review on my blog.


Rob Kitchin sagde ...

The book is the right length when it tells the whole story in a satisfactory way. Adding words, but not to the story, is just padding. If it ends up as 65K and it tells the whole story then it's the right length. I do think you might want to visit Yorkshire to make sure you're getting that right. I would be very wary of writing a story set in Denmark without visiting and getting a feel for the people and the place. Even if the story is great, if it doesn't feel authentic it'll jar with the reader.

Kelly sagde ...

I don't mind a long book if it's vital to the story.

I'm such a slow reader you might not want me as a proofer. However, when (not "if") The Cosy Knave is published I definitely want to read it!!

Dorte H sagde ...

Clarissa: thank you for your generous offer, and I will certainly take you up on it, but not until I have taken a thorough look at it.

Rob: I know that padding won´t sell my book (because I made that mistake a few years ago in another manuscript). As you say, I may have to visit Yorkshire, yet it makes a difference to me that though I use some Yorkshire features, it is a fictional place.

Kelly: I like long books very much, but as Rob says, only if the story is long, not just because the writer didn´t know how to get to the ending.

And if you are interested in reading the manuscript, I´ll be very happy to email it to you. So far, it has only been seen by Danish eyes, and I will feel much more confident that it is good enough if a few English readers have their say before I send it to a publisher. And it doesn´t matter if you take your time; it will take months before I will be ready to send it off.

Bernadette in Australia sagde ...

I have no clue what is "right" though as a reader of many books these days I am drawn to shorter books - on top of anything else I think it means they've been edited better.

Dorte H sagde ...

Bernadette: I love long stories, but as some of my readers have said, only if it is because the story is long, not because the editing is poor. For my Danish manuscript I cut away more than 10 % during the final editing process. I just hope it was the right 10 % that went.

bkclubcare sagde ...

What do I know but I think a story should be long enough. Formulas be damned! YOU decide.

Dorte H sagde ...

Care: I don´t like formulas either, but if a publisher told me to add or cut 5000 words? :)