I’m an experienced writer. But not an experienced novelist. The distinction may be important.
I’ve noted suggestions that my debut novel not be 150,000 words; ranges like 63,000 to 125,000 are suggested. Currently, The Forge is 150,000 words. Editing will trim about 7,000-10,000 words. I know the number because there are two specific chapters that have problems.
The chapters are exciting — a lot of stuff happens. But they don’t fit with the gritty, detailed world view. They both involve small jumps of faith that the Red Knight or the Mage would get away with something scot-free.
That’s not right for this world. The Red Knight doesn’t get anything for free. The Mage, however, can get things without immediate cost; his story arc is more convoluted. That cuts two chapters, and perhaps some parts of others. It will trim the book closer to the suggested size for a debut novel.
Some agents say 80,000 to 90,000 words for a debut. This means chopping the 140,000 word story in two, and then adding a little material to each part to make them stand more-or-less alone.
The center is a dreadful breaking point. The story is a three-stage hero’s journey, and we’re deep into the dark part of the story where there are mysteries to be solved and deals to be struck. Breaking in the middle seems like a forced kind of cliff-hanger.
Maybe I have to write some other book first as a debut, and then try to sell the four-part Tales of Red Ranger? The squires have stories; I do need to catalog them carefully, each is interesting.
(The implication is that my character's back stories aren’t written down in detail. Having only the barest outlines of back stories is how I leave myself open to inspiration. As the story develops, and a reveal is needed to advance the plot, I’m free to manufacture something that’s interesting. In many cases, I have to go back and provide setup for the reveal.)
In the non-fiction world, the page count and debut status didn’t seem to be tied together. My debut non-fiction book was pretty big because the topic needed 600 pages. But for fiction, there’s a sense of “too-big-too-soon."