See The Debut Novel Problem. The Forge is 160,400 words right now. I got my first “that’s too big” response from an agent; no additional details were provided, so I don’t know what they’re measuring against.
I do know there’s a “Debut Novels should be…” topic suggesting debuts should be shorter.
Sometimes I consider chopping The Forge into three much smaller books. But this doesn’t feel right. It would play out like this:
The opening "Escape from the Temple” stage is 46,700 words. I’ve got at least 15,000 words laying around on the cutting room floor dealing with Outlanders, Temple Mages, and Bandits; those additional problems, plus a final transition chapter, could blossom into a 63,000 word debut.
"The Outlands" is 57,600 words. A pair of connecting chapters to wrap this into the middle of a trilogy are easy to add.
"The Real War" is 63,300 words. A lead-in chapter is all this needs. A proper #grimdark ending is already there.
This makes the other four books of Tales of the Red Ranger into twelve books. Okay. I think I can cope with many smaller books. My mental model of the pacing changes.
I could break The Forge into two books, each about 80,000 words. As I noted earlier, it would end just before the Mage finds what he’s searching for in the Outlands. In a way, this is a potentially frustrating place in the story. A chapter will have to be inserted here to bracket the mage’s reluctant, frustrated acceptance of captivity. And the Red Knight’s parallel story would have be rearranged a bit.
I can continue with what I’ve got. A large debut for my fiction career.
Because I sent out a dozen queries today — hoping there’s an agent who wants #grimdark #epicfantasy — I’m going to leave things alone for now.