Character Arc Progression

Character arc is the changes your character goes through from the beginning to the end of the novel. It is how they grow and learn, or change. Take a good look at your manuscript or outline. Is your character arc strong enough to help carry the novel? It should be just as strong as the plot, if not stronger, depending upon your genre. Not every genre will have such a powerful character arc and that’s okay, they aren’t all supposed to. But if you write character driven fiction, that character better be strong and their arc needs to be evident.

Think of a novel you read recently that had a really good character arc. How did that character change from the beginning to the end of the novel? What about them did you like in the beginning, middle, and end? Readers celebrate with your characters, be it an achievement, revelation, or growth. Without those elements in your characters the reader doesn’t get as attached to them and therefore doesn’t care, which means they may stop reading. 

To make sure your character arc is strong enough, do an arc sheet at the same time you do an outline. Map out the changes, growth, hardship, and setbacks you want your character to go through. They should end up in a completely different state than they began the novel. Not an outlining kind of person? That’s okay, jot down notes about what your character is going through personally throughout the novel. This method will reveal whether or not you have fully developed them to the point where the reader will be satisfied. 

Guest post by Heather McCorkle, freelance editor, graphic designer, and acquisitions editor with City Owl Press. She has generously provided the attached character arc sheet below.

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Allison Duke

From Allie: 
I currently offer manuscript critique, proofreading, and editing. I also have writing, research assistance, and academic writing tutoring listed on my site. My fees are listed as hourly with estimates available.

A Bit From Allie’s Site: 
I dream of writing words and sending them out into the world to make it a better, more beautiful place. I don’t believe in keeping my dreams to myself. I want to take others with me. If you dream of writing, or have done some writing but need help making it better, more concise, and more beautiful, I’d love to help you out.

Genre Lengths in the Industry

Word length is key to being able to land an agent and/or a publisher. Agents and editors both take it into careful consideration. Expected/accepted lengths differ by genre and by the personal preference of the one you are submitting it to. Here are some loose guidelines in a few of the genres that can be helpful even if you are writing to self-publish as they will give you a rough idea of what is expected both by readers and traditional publishing. Please note: These are for full-length novels, not novellas. 

Fantasy: 80,000 to 110,000 A little under is all right, but you will likely be asked to flesh it out some, over by much and you risk having two books instead of one. Not a bad problem to have, but understand that you may be asked to break it up into two books with full story ARC’s worked into both. Many agents and publishers will accept longer fantasy, but be careful not to overdo it. 

Paranormal: 75,000 to 95,000. A little under is all right, but if you drop below 70,000, you may be asked to flesh it out, over 95,000 and it will likely get passed by when it comes to agents and publishers.

Science-Fiction: 80,000 to 120,000. Rarely will you find sci-fi under 80k, it’s just too involved for a shorter word count. On the longer side, you can go over, but don’t go crazy. Know when your story and character ARCs need to complete, don’t go beyond it. Close to or more than 120 might mean you are burying the story (and the reader) in too much description and world building. While this genre requires a lot of both, it is a careful balance. If you find yourself going longer than 120k, think about writing it as a series instead of one book. 

Historical Romance: 75,000 to 110,000. I wouldn’t really go under on this one because then it is likely that you aren’t putting in enough ‘historical’ to give it the right feel, over and it becomes harder to sell. Even approaching the far end at 110k you need to make sure it is a very compelling novel with a good pace that doesn’t lag.

Can you write a novel shorter or longer? Absolutely. No rule is carved in stone or written in blood. But, if you are way off base on the length, you might need to look closer at your manuscript. 

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