An Insecure Winner #IWSG

NaNoWriMo is over. I validated and achieved my winner’s status. I didn’t get 50K of keepable content, as I had wanted to, but I did make a dent in Isto’s overall word count. Yesterday, I compiled what I had before NaNo with my keepable content, and I’m up over 73K for this POV.

Let’s see, 73K for one POV that’s not yet finished and there’re four POVs in the book.

I think this is going to be another big book.

Therein lies the same insecurity that never seems to let me go.

If it’s over 120K, it’s too long.
People don’t have the attention span for long books anymore.
Wow, at that word length, it must need serious editing.

These are all things people have told me. They probably meant them with best intentions. Still, they judged my writing based on a 170K word count (Thanmir War) without reading a single word of it.

Then there are those comments where they playfully tell me my book is a door stop. Yes, because it makes me feel good that people want to throw my book on the ground and kick it out of their way when they are done using it.


I don’t know if Isto will come out at a higher word count than Thanmir War. And for me, it’s okay if it does. That still doesn’t abate my terror that people will judge my writing on word count alone.

For now, I’ll shove those thoughts aside and keep plugging away at my story. My characters entertain me. I enjoy reading 300K books. I have at least one fan out there who isn’t related to me. That right there gives me reason to believe in myself.

Just so you know, both Thanmir War and This World Bites are part of the Read & Review Challenge. If you want a free review copy to try to win some swag, let me know via email: loni at lonitownsend dot com. You can also click the mailto link under the Get Social! sidebar widget.

About Insecure Writer’s Support Group
You can find the sign up for the IWSG here. We owe Alex J Cavanaugh a huge thank you for thinking this blog hop up.

Loni Townsend

About Loni Townsend

Wife. Mother. Writer. Ninja. Squirrel.

49 thoughts on “An Insecure Winner #IWSG

  1. I think it’s fab that you can write such a huge piece of writing! I must admit though 100K is about my reading limit – but who knows? πŸ™‚ Would your much larger pieces be workable as part of a Trilogy? Just a thought. I absolutely loved Nora Roberts, The Circle Trilogy and also the Hunger Games Trilogy. I admire how you fit so much into your day, Loni. You must be Superwoman πŸ™‚ Have a fantastic December and a wonderful Christmas.

  2. Congratulations on the accomplishment! Progress I’d say and if not usable, at least you might count it as writing practice.

    I don’t mind reading a long book–and if I really like the story I’m glad if the book is long–but I do like a book with short chapters or convenient stopping places without long involved narratives. My reading usually comes in short bites and sometimes a long wordy chapter leaves me in a bad place for following the narrative.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

  3. Yes, shove those concerns aside for now and keep going! Focus on the story, the characters and the fact that you’re enjoying writing it. The rest will take care of itself when it needs to. πŸ™‚

  4. I feel your pain on the word count thing. I have a 115 (okay 116) K historical novel that I’m afraid will be dismissed by potential agents based on the word count. I have edited out thousands of words and worry that cutting more will make the story fall apart. Maybe I should redo the ending. But I like the ending. Sigh.

  5. Yay! Congrats on NaNo!

    I’m the opposite with my books being too short for people to take seriously. But the story is the story regardless of word count. Admittedly, I’m still working my way through Thanmir War, but it isn’t because of length it’s because…

    …oooh, shiny!

    Okay, really it’s I can’t sit down to read lately without someone bothering me. I don’t care about work count when I read – I care about the story and I think most people are that way. Unfortunately, we’ve all gotten this word count thing in our heads with our writing. Keep telling the story you want to tell and we’ll keep reading it.

  6. Door stop? That’s not nice. Most fantasy books are long. Comes with the genre. Just write the story you want to write.

  7. Whew! My first fantasy novel ended at 140K, for a middle grade fantasy. Oops. Well if JK Rowling can do it… Of course, that was before I knew about her, maybe even before she was published. Regardless, I worked that thing over and guess what? A super-condensed, powerful 90K later… I can’t say the story suffered for it. What got kept was the meat of the work and I like it a TON more. It will even see the light of day, one of these days. The biggest thing I learned from the experience is that there is power in mega editing–even if it’s painful.

  8. Seems to me that finishing NaNo with 50K of useable content must be next to impossible. I think 25K of useable content is enough to be declared a success. Take a short break from Nano now and then get back to writing again. I’m still waiting to see some of these chapters.

  9. In my circles a “door stop” is a good thing. Fantasy readers like big, sweeping tomes, and many do not believe a book is worth their time unless it gives them an arm cramp carrying it around (or can hold a door open).

    The Ice and Fire books are between 300-400K each. Deathly Hallows was 200K and Order of the Phoenix was over 250K (and those are kids books). Fellowship of the Ring was almost 200K. And of course there’s Stephen King, who has several books over 400K words, and his shortest are still over 200K.

    People read those, right?

    Readers love when good books are long. Just keep writing good books and you’ll do fine. πŸ˜‰

  10. Congrats! And, really, does anyone have 50K of keepable content? I think it’s heavily edited… There are readers for long books. And you’re comfortable writing them. (AND shorter ones. *ahem* This World Bites.) Go for it. Write! We love your words.

  11. Stephen Tremp

    Loni, as long as a book is interesting and fun I don;t care what the word count is. Mine are usually around 130,000 words.

    Stephen Tremp

  12. Congratulations! I don’t care about word counts if the story is good. And from what I’ve read from you so far, your stories are darn good! Keep on writing. πŸ™‚

  13. Congrats on your NaNo success! I’m with all the others who say they don’t care how long the book is. If it’s good, I’ll read it no matter how long it is. πŸ™‚

  14. Anne BB

    Yay!!! You made it!

    I’m with you on the excessive word count issue. My WIP in revision is about 104K, but the more I work on it, the more it rises. The story needs more. Having read This World Bites and several other of your pieces, I know you don’t have much fat to cut. It’s all content, so you have to cut whole scenes, check for continuity and fill in plot holes.

    Blow off the nay-sayers. You self-publish so it’s not much of an issue for you. If they buy the e-version, most people don’t look at page or word count. If they are scared off by the size of the print book, they aren’t your audience.

    I remember reading The Stand by Stephen King in 7th grade–over 800 pages, way over 200K words. I lugged that hardback everywhere with me. It took a friend of mine a month to read it and we both got bogged down in the middle. I kept telling him it got better, keep reading. In the end we both had experienced a great, looooong story. Big books filled up with story are the best!

    Maybe at some point it will change, but for now keep writing the big stories and filling up all those pages. Write the stories that you want to write, no matter how many words. You’ve already conquered the hard part–the first book –and more. You survived. Go with your gut and write great stuff. You have and you will succeed.

  15. I’m envious, I would feel so accomplished if I got that kind of word count. I work at getting 50,000. I do better on short stories,. Congrats on winning NaNo. I have never won November, but I have the camp NaNo’s,. You go!!

    Merry Christmas
    Juneta @ Writer’s Gambit

  16. I think book length should be determined by what you have to say, what your characters demand, the number of words it takes to tell your story. Don’t get discouraged by careless comments. Tell your story your way!

  17. Don’t listen to naysayers. Follow your gut and what you want to do. People are going to criticize you no matter what, so you might as well please yourself. If you do, you’ll be more confident about the end result.

  18. You have accomplished a lot. Congrats on your NaNo success. And don’t listen to the critics. Well, listen to them but make your own decisions and trust your own judgments. You’re the only one who knows your story.

  19. Congrats on NaNo. Word count seems to be a thing if your submitting. I know it sucks but we don’t make the rules. We’re expected to follow them though. Let’s hope your work is the exception. πŸ™‚

    Anna from Elements of Writing

  20. I say write the book you want to write.

    My creative writing teacher once told me that. We were going back and forth on plot and characters and should I do this/should I do that and he stopped me mid sentence and said: write the story you want to write.

    So now I’m saying it to you: write the story you want to write. Only you know of its true brilliance because it exists in your imagination. If it’s short, okay. If it’s long, even better – the reader’s getting more for their money. Trust yourself that you know what’s best for the characters and story and not what modern book trends indicate. πŸ™‚

  21. Jenni K

    “…but for my own part, if a book is well written, I always find it too short.”
    Jane Austen

    I have to agree with Austen here. Who cares how long a book is if it’s written well. You write well and you have an amazing story to tell, word it up. πŸ™‚

  22. Emma Adams

    Congrats on winning NaNo!

    Nothing wrong with long books – look at how popular George R. R. Martin is! I think the story’s as long as it wants to be.

  23. congratulations on finishing. I think you should write the book you want to write and don’t worry about the length. If the story is good, people will want to read it, even if it’s long.

  24. As long as the story is good, long books don’t bother me. And if people say they can use a book as a door step, hey, they must have a pretty piss poor property or their scary rednecks lol

  25. The trend right now is for shorter books. They sell better. However, that means more people are writing shorter books, which leaves the longer, epic fantasy genre wide open.

  26. cathrina constantine

    I’ve been told fantasy can get up there as far as the word count goes. I’ve read plenty of YA books that go way over the normal limit, of course, they’re from the big presses. Write what make you happy!!!

  27. just look at Game of Thrones – readers read, no matter the length as long as it’s a good story! you go go go girl!

  28. Holy crap! Congrats on just doing NANO!! I for one would not have the self control. And if you’re going that fast of course some stuff is gonna be fluff! Keep going!!

  29. I love short stories but I also love super long books. I am planning to read Thanmir War this winter. I hadn’t had time to get around to it but I’m excited to read it soon. πŸ™‚

    Congrats on NaNo!

  30. Hi,
    Congrats on finishing NaNo. 73K means you were busily writing what came to you for your book and I’m proud of you for achieving what you have achieved. As for how long your book should be, I will always tell you to go with your flow. You have to know when your book is finished whether it is 15K or 120K. Don’t let others’ opinions of the length of your book destroy your peace about it.


  31. You write fantasy. I thought ‘long book’ was a genre thing.

    Pay attention to the trees and the forest will take care of itself. Like Arlee said, if a book is good, the reader doesn’t want it to end. πŸ˜‰

  32. It doesn’t matter if an epic fantasy is long, if it is good reading. There are too many examples out there of bad short books. And you’ve made me think now about my ‘epic mystery’ – after your visit to my ‘Word count/IWSG’ post. Thanks and keep going.

  33. There was a guy in my old writers group with whom I fought frequently about book length. I always argued that a lot depends upon genre. That if one is writing an epic fantasy, one could possibly need more than 200 pages to tell their story successfully.

    You’re writing a truly-epic epic fantasy series. Long books are part of the territory. It seems to be working all right for GRRM, or Robert Jordan or Patrick Rothfuss, or any other number of fantasy authors, so why not you too?

  34. Honestly, if your writing is good, there shouldn’t be a reason why you can’t pull off a big word count.

    This is why I always write for myself first (and edit for my potential audience.)

  35. There is a place for every story. Keep writing it if you are still enjoying it. People will judge, but that’s their loss. And hey, congrats for completing NaNo.

  36. I think you are fabulous! I didn’t get past 38,000 words. ugh. I enjoy long books, I wish I had so much more time for them. Congratulations on winning!

  37. Some of my favorite books are the longest ones I’ve read. If it’s a good story, I’m glad they are long, because I don’t want them to end. Congrats on finishing NaNo!

  38. Congrats on completing NaNo. I’m sure you’ll use all your words. And as they say about writing, you only have to please yourself with the story. With the ease and popularity of self publishing, that all powerful voice of THEY doesn’t need to interfere with getting the works out there.

    Happy holidays Loni.

  39. I love big books. the bigger the better. Lots of fantasy and historical fiction books are long, big books. And I would never abuse a book as a door stop.

  40. “I have at least one fan out there who isn’t related to me” LOL
    I think you must follow your heart. πŸ™‚
    Congrats on winning NaNo!

  41. You should do what you want to with your story. Sometimes writers take too much advice from others and twist themselves into knots and end up with a story they don’t like, so just be true to your own ideas and writing passion. πŸ™‚

    • Well said Lexa!
      I made a post about a similar problemo. Except instead of having a large word count, it was about taking two novels and expanding them into three.

  42. Congrats on finishing. I read big books now and then. I don’t mind a huge word count. I know publishers might ask it to be broken up into a series.

  43. Congrats Loni! I had a rather pitiful NaNo this year on account of too many distractions.
    I think it is a testament to your perseverance that you finished but also because you sent the word count meter into the overload red zone. πŸ™‚

  44. I hear you on this, and from several directions at once. I absolutely love long books – one of my favorite series, even though it’s only two books long so far, the author has said that every book is going to be about 400K words long. They’re massive tomes full of story and I love them. So I don’t think length should be considered a detriment to a story.

    Also, I… I got a rejection letter from an agent saying that my fantasy novel wasn’t long enough. Seriously. -_- I think I dodged another bullet on that one, though – bad enough when readers judge books only on length, but an agent that does? Pass.

  45. I don’t know, I’m reading a le Carre novel that’s almost 700pp, and I can’t wait to get back to it. Length doesn’t scare me from a book, poor writing does and I’m in and out fairly quickly.

  46. Hi Loni! I’m new to your blog. Just wanted to say that I love the design! Congrats on completing NaNo this year. I had it in mind to join, but knew in my heart my calendar wasn’t going to give me the time I needed. Maybe next year. πŸ™‚

    As for your novel’s word length, I too have enjoyed many long stories. I hate that people don’t give it a shot off the bat. World building takes time to form (I’ve experienced this in my novels personally).

  47. Congrats! It looks like NaNo was really productive for you. I think especially with ebooks, wordcount is less important these days. It should just be what the story needs. If I’m loving a story, I don’t want it to end. If there are four POVs, you might have a book for each one – I don’t know how much work that would take. Just a thought.

  48. There’s nothing wrong with big books. Fantasy tends to be rather epic in word count, and I’ve enjoyed quite a few 1000+ page books.

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