Struggling to the End

meI’m about 350 pages into Pathspace now and am ¬†at something of a crossroads.

My plan all along has been to send query letters to agents for each book I finish in the hope that eventually either my originality or my fecundity will get their attention and land me the representation I need to get a book deal.

But now I am struggling, caught between the need to finish this book and the desire to take it where I wanted to go.

You see, I’ve read in several places that for a “debut novel” (translate: the first book published by someone you’ve never heard of) there is a fairly well defined size window you need to aim for. Publishers, I’m told, don’t want something less than 70,000 words, because the book will be slim and potential buyers will think they’re not getting their money’s worth. But publishers also don’t want something over 100,000 words. This is because they cannot charge twice as much for a book twice as thick — and more pages mean higher printing costs and fewer copies fitting into display space at bookstores.

So here I am, well past the 90,000 word milepost, and nowhere near the end of my narrative in this book that is intended to be the first of a new trilogy. This leaves me with at least three alternatives:

1. I can rush to the ending, to stay under the size limit. I’d hate to do this, because sacrificing quality for the sake of brevity is not a choice I want to make as a writer.

2. I can write until I am finished with it, and then go back and try to hack out enough fluff to get the size down to 100k words. I’d hate to do this, because I seriously don’t believe I’ve put a lot of “fluff” into the manuscript. For all that I admire his writing, I’m not as long-winded as Neil Stephenson. My paragraphs tend to be pithier (I think), and that leaves me with less wiggle-room in terms of removable lacunae.

3. I can write until I am finished, and hope that my earlier works get published first. We all know that if you get published once, your later books are allowed to get longer. The problem with this approach is that the entire reason I have continued to write is that (hopefully) I am getting better at it, and therefore my later books are more likely to be published than my earlier ones. I am personally proud of what I have been able to do with Gamers and Gods, but if it is not my first effort to see the light of day, then I am still stuck with the max-length restriction on subsequent works until I start getting into print.

So I have three choices, none of which I like.

But it appears I will have to choose soon.  Because stopping at this point is not an option.

— MRK

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