Like a painter picking a canvas, an author has to choose the size and type of the story they want to tell. There are plenty of pieces informing that choice, like genre, style, publishing goals, and more. For the Wild Nines trilogy, here’s what I aimed for, based on sci fi genre conventions and the goal of having three full-length novels:
60,000 – 80,000 words.
Multiple points of view.
Story arcs that resolve themselves in each book, but with separate, longer arcs that cover the entire trilogy.
And more, but that’s the general gist. Without getting too in-depth to the plot construction, the thing I want to touch on today is how I stick to that first item, the word count.
In previous works, I’ve found it hard to ‘magically’ land at the proper wordcount. Simply drawing up a collection of scenes and events often left me short (or long) on the target count. Not landing in the range for the chosen genre isn’t necessarily a problem, but it does affect the price points (too short for full price, so long that the extra time requires a higher price to make back investment).
So, I use Scrivener and set a goal of a number of words per scene, or chapter. I then make sure I have an independent ‘text’, or slot, in Scrivener for every one of those scenes.
For the Wild Nines series, I aim to average around a 1000 words per chapter overall. That means I added 70 individual scenes to the Scrivener document. Some wind up being longer, some shorter, and some might get cut as the plot refines itself in the writing, but I’ll certainly land within my word count range.
Doing things this way also makes it easy to establish daily targets, as well as plan out a publishing schedule from week to week. Sure, it lacks the creative ‘spark’ of just writing what comes to you, but when your art is what puts food on the table and keeps a roof over your head, keeping your work moving is more important.
So if you’re struggling to map out all the little pieces of your novel, or can’t seem to hit the length required for your project, try breaking it down into sections, many of them, and use those to plan your writing. You just might find it’s easier than going without a guide.