How long should a first novel be? I realise being almost 80,000 words into writing one probably isn't the best time to ask that. I started out thinking 100,000 would be a good length for my first draft, taking Stephen King's dictum that:
2nd draft = 1st draft - 10%
...but I'm rapidly approaching that and nowhere near to wrapping things up. I'm only just getting things going, and I've already written 203 pages according to Scrivener. At this rate I'm facing a book of War and Peace proportions, and as a first-time writer that's never going to fly.
A friend told me this week that 40-60,000 was a good length for a first novel. 40-60? I thought that was a novella.
My first draft is a sprawling mass of notes, with nothing that looks even remotely like chapters, let alone a neat structure. I start new documents for every new idea, tucking ones in earlier that fit nearer the start, and scribbling notes for ideas that come later. Every time I think I'm going to nail a scene, it runs away with me, and I;ve bulked it up by a few hundred words and not got any further with the story.
I can't wait to get to the rewrite and start tidying it up. I think my equation will be more like "second draft = first draft - 40%". It's way too long, and the first draft is a hard slog, not made any easier by the knowledge that I will cut a lot of everything I write. Sometimes I know as soon as I finish a sentence that it'll go. But sometimes it leads to another thought, and another, that I like and I'm proud of, and stumbling my way through new sentences suddenly seems worth it.
Here's to the next 80,000!
Word count this week: 5,200 Total word count: 88,751 First draft: 78,735