When I finished the final draft of History and ran the wordcount, I nearly jumped out of my chair with celebration.
IT WAS UNDER 200,000 words!
I mean, barely, but still. So what if it’s 199,682 words long? That’s still <200,000 words.
I was deeply relieved, because for a while there it had bloated to a monstrous 220,000 words!
Even in its newer, slimmer version, History is a beast of a book. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, I’m not sure. My fellow authors say, “No one will read all of that! Why not split it into two?”
I thought about that. But I couldn’t do it.
First of all, there is a story arc to History, and cutting it in half wouldn’t work. It wouldn’t even be ending on a cliffhanger. It would just be literally stopping the story half way through and asking people for more money. I have no interest in bilking people so they can find out what happens next. I could end the book on a cliffhanger, but there are really only two good places to do that, and one is only 60,000 words in, which would really be more of a novella than a novel, and the other would be over 150,000 words in, which means the ending would be a novella. Plus, I’d be ending on a cliffhanger which a lot of people despise with a passion.
I mean, how many of you read the end of Catching Fire and wanted to throw the book across the room?
So. I wrote a long book. But is that really such a bad thing? Let’s try to turn this word count into something meaningful.
History is longer than Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire but shorter than Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
It’s longer than any of the Lord of the Rings books (which amazes me because I feel like Return of the King was the longest book EVERRRR but maybe it just felt that way reading it) but it’s shorter than any of George R R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books (probably because I don’t spend five pages describing banners on a battlefield. I mean, the books are gripping but then THAT happens and it’s like COME ON, GEORGE).
It’s longer than any of the Twilight books but it’s shorter than the Outlander books.
It’s longer than Jane Eyre but shorter than Middlemarch.
It’s longer than Great Expectations but shorter than Moby Dick.
Do you know what I realized, when I started comparing my book to other books?
That word count doesn’t matter to me, as a reader. So many other factors come into the perceived “length” of a book. Like, I would consider Order of the Phoenix to be a faster read than Great Expectations, wouldn’t you? And Moby Dick might be shorter than A Game of Thrones, but I know which book I would blast through faster.
So my book is long.
That doesn’t mean that it’s too long. Only my readers can tell me that. And if people start complaining that it’s too long and they DNF it, then that’s on me. Not because I wrote a long book, but because I wrote a book that felt more like Moby Dick than Outlander or Order of the Phoenix.
So I’m okay with the length, as long as it keeps people turning pages.
… But I’m still really happy to have it under 200,000 words.