• Dom

A hundred-thousand words

100,000 words. Whoa. This is a screen-grab from my work-in-progress, a science-fantasy novel called 'Timberwolf'. I've been more or less fallow for about a year when it comes to writing, and this took five months, so I'm feeling pretty good.

I get asked fairly often 'how many pages are one of your books?' That's not the point when you think about it - books come in different size formats, and ebooks allow you to make a page as big or small as you like (which is why they have 'locations' and not pages). No, word-count is the biggie.

You might or might not know that, in genre fiction, word count varies significantly. Thrillers and Crime, for example, usually come in at the 70-85 thousand mark. Mine are usually at the upper end of that. Some Romance can be a bit shorter, and anything under 50 thousand is considered a Novella. There are outliers of course - 'I am Pilgrim' by Terry Hayes, a chunky espionage thriller, comes in at a gut-busting 197 thousand words. The literary equivalent of one of those eat-it-all-and-you-don't-pay fry-ups you get in a builders' caff. A helluva lot of poolside reading, and a best-seller. Of course, some people hated ALL THOSE DAMN WORDS, but I rather enjoyed it.

SF and Fantasy? That's different. Those readers tend to like (actually they noisily demand) longer books. 100,000 is sort of entry-level (and I'm not finished, I suspect this one will sit at 125,000 or thereabouts). As a writer it's liberating (you've got space to do lots and lots of stuff) and daunting (that's a lot of words, characters, sub-plots, scenes and other plates to spin). I'm beginning to see the point of those story-management programmes like Scrivener, which I've always found too complex. Instead I'm filling notebooks with stuff, to keep track of it all.

In case you're interested in what 'Timberwolf' is all about... well I'm not going to say too much. This is a first draft, and no first draft survives first contact with the beta reader. I can say it's a mixture of pulpy 70's SF, Sven Hassel and George Macdonald Fraser, with a splash of The Gulag Archipelago and Indiana Jones. It is also liberally seeded with Michael Moorcock Easter eggs.

Yes, I am fully aware that sounds completely fucked-up. Watch this space.

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