I'm so close to being finished with volume one of the two-part series that I can smell the words "the end." In a way, it's sort of sad, leaving my main character for a while so I can beta then query the first book. Although I think it stands alone (emphasis on I think. We'll see what the Dawg Pack thinks), somehow I still feel it's one book not two. I find the concept of dividing a life slightly disturbing. Does that sound stupid or what?!
Speaking in terms of word count, a life that say spans fifty years would take a lot of words. Add that three score and seven Biblical thingy and Va-zoom! Multiply that fifty-year-old's life-words by 6.5. That's even more words. Are there limits on the number of words used in a novel? Sort of.
One agent won't look at a first-novel with less than 85,000 words or more than 110,000. Words count. (Pardon the pun.) Not all agents are that particular, but if even one would toss your work in the circular file over word count, then word count must be watched closely.
Some authors might disagree, even published authors, saying word count doesn't count as long as you submit quality work. I suppose there's some truth in that argument. In a perfect world, a good book is a good book no matter how many words appear between the words "chapter one" and "the end." However, the lack of perfection in this world is one of its most endearing characteristics.
Very few publishing houses accept unrepresented manuscripts. Why? Because their slush piles of "to read" became so tall it seemed there was no room for desks and copiers and the like. Today, in order to get the eye of a legitimate publisher, the piece must be represented. If a would-be author takes a peek at a site displaying the names of literary agents, it seems the world is filled with potential representation. However, that would-be author must be careful because not all who claim the title "agent" are true author representatives. Some are more interested in representing themselves and will charge innumerable "fees" to Mr./Ms. Would-Be while the now "represented" novel languishes on some dusty desk.
Just like any other industry based on dreams, there are people who choose to use the dreams of others to promote themselves, to pilfer a dollar at a time until dreams die and artists who might have had some measure of success with the right guidance toss their keyboards into whatever waterway is at hand. Dreams are like apples to some people, just something ripe for the picking. Writer beware.
How do I know this? Me? An unrepresented author? I've made it my business to know. How? Researching. Asking questions. Reading blogs. Talking to authors who are represented. Checking out on-line contracts. Searching who and what agents have represented in the past. What's their track record? The business end of writing. If the business end includes advice on word count, I listen. If the business end includes the requirements of certain legitimate agents, I comply. It's business, the business of dreams.
I'm not by nature a woman of business. I'm a little flighty and a lot disorganized. I often lose my car keys or can't remember exactly where I parked. My desk is riddled with papers, pens, and folders while my file cabinets are barren. I over-check and overeat. I'm a mess, but I've listened carefully to others. I'm a member of Absolute Write Water Cooler (one of the best writers' boards). I read comments. I check out threads that offer warnings issued from other authors.
In my life, I've been fooled. After all, I've been married three times: once to a cop, once to a criminal, and finally, to a psychologist so I could figure out why I married a cop and a criminal. That pretty much says it all. My dreams? Well, that's a different story. I treasure them, coddle them, nurture them. My work as a writer? Very much like children, my children, and I won't have my children misused. That's the truth of it.
I'll seek representation, but I'll be wary as we all should be. I'll keep asking questions and looking to the experience of others. When I query, I'll query agents who've had successes with books like my own. I'll make sure I've identified the genre correctly, and I'll make sure that the Dawg Pack has hounded the piece thoroughly before I send the first letter to a would-be agent.
There endeth the sermon for the day.