Ten Down


I finally finished editing a chapter of my novel that needed some streamlining. I’ve been working on it for several weeks and I don’t think there’s a single part that I didn’t pick apart and run my grubby little hands over before putting it back together again. Characters were cut. Darlings were killed. Action was simplified. Unnecessary dialogue was trimmed.

When all was said and done I’d managed to trim about three pages of text. That didn’t seem like much, but when I pasted it into the larger document I discovered that I’d trimmed ten pages off the total page count, and I was only as far as Chapter 4.

It’s still a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of things: the total page count is still over nine hundred pages of awesome, but the fact that I was able to trim so much bulk out of so few chapters feels reassuring. Maybe I’ll be able to wrestle this into a manageable wordcount after all. The challenge has been thrown down.

I’m hoping to submit this manuscript to a few mentors for Pitch Wars. I want to believe that it would be eye catching for a mentor to want to work on, but I worry that the word count might scare them away without reading any of the prose. A part of me is already wondering if it might be worthwhile to divide the story into a trilogy, although it’s not written in a genre that lends itself to serialization. I’m wondering whether it’s worth submitting only the first third to the mentorship program to try to get a sense of whether or not it will stand on its own. I worry that to not submit the whole script might seem disingenuous: like I’m trying to “sneak” a big project in under the guise of a reasonable wordcount, which isn’t my intention at all, but I’m not sure if it would count for our against me.

The novelists dilemma: artistic vision vs commercial viability.

Anyway, it’s a marathon not a sprint.

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~ by Gwydhar Gebien on September 13, 2019.

5 Responses to “Ten Down”

  1. Are you saying your final product could be 900 pages long? And, I was worried about cracking 600. I’ve read books no longer than 400 pages and can’t conceive writing anything longer, in novel terms. I may have crossed the line with my rather wordy and surprisingly complex pick-a-path books. But, it’s hard to see it coming and just as hard to trim once it’s complete. It’s as if I am learning I have written a novel (as I often write novel-length comments on blogs) when I thought I was writing something far more concise. When I’ve tried writing a novel, I burn out quick and am fairly certain my output is not nearly 100 pages.

    Is this your first attempt at a published novel?

    If the final work looks to be that long….is it possible you could break this up into 2-4 books? Aha…I gotta read before I write. You had the same thought.

    I’m a lil nervous about all this submission stuff and not knowing where you/to submit. But, isn’t it simple enough to submit a synopsis with the first third/chunk of the big kahuna to get an opinion/evaluation? You’d have the other two thirds explained in a sort of foreshadowed way, in the synopsis…and, that way, you protect yourself from someone running off with your ideas…right?

    Otherwise, take a deep breath, have faith in the whole, if you like it and struggle too hard to cut it down, and run full-steam ahead with confidence….or as close to confident as us nervous creative nellies can get.

    • Yeah for querying you only send a cover letter and the first few chapters so the agent or editor can decide if they like your style, but you are supposed to include a word count so they can get a sense of the length. Most novels are around 90,000 words. Mine is 257,000 so… The trimming continues.

      • Define querying. Oh, please don’t grade me on style…eesh.

        And, how do I get a word count without some digital shredder that can count them like beans on a conveyor belt? I don’t think I could ever count my words the way I had to as a kid in school. No way I am attempting to count 90,000 words, much less 1,500.

        Again, so what if your book is more words than another or the longest ever written? Did the author of War and Peace ever say, “I’d better make this shorter so my agent will approve.” Did Shakespeare bother to question the clarity of his work beneath the tidal waves of praise he received by those who either understood his code or just wanted a piece of what they anticipated was to be a grand fortune?

        If you are looking to trim 257,000 words down to 90,000, either the story isn’t worth 257,000 words or you’re going to lose some creative points. If you trim too many branches, the tree becomes a novelty stick.

      • Querying is sending out your work to agents or editors to try to court interest to get someone to publish it.

        Most word processing programs have a word count feature that can tell you how many words are in a document so you don’t have to count them manually- that would be a nightmare!

        I don’t mind the story being so long myself, but I also want people to not be too intimidated by the size to pick it up in the first place. It’s true that my vanity knows no bounds, but I’m hardly a Shakespeare or Tolstoy, and I’m sure I can stand to streamline my prose. If I can’t slim it down without losing important plot elements I’ll consider cutting it into smaller portions, but I really prefer it as a single arc.

      • Are these agents you’ve already dealt with or names you found on some list and say, “Let’s try this person”?

        And, what if your computer no longer has a word processing program because the makers sold you on getting the computer for less by taking it off their older models and making you pay a monthly/annual user fee to get it back?

        Yes; yes it would be a nightmare…and it brings back soooo many horrifying nights from my school days.

        To reduce intimidation, you need to ensure the whole is satisfying or, at least, enticing. Considering the praise Shakespeare gets–like the Beatles–I doubt any true fan would be turned off by a book with 1,000 pages or more. So, if you are concerned, maybe get your name out there with a smaller work and work your way up to the big kahuna.

        Even as little as I know you, I’d be interested in inspecting your large work. But, if the story or subject matter is of little interest, there’s not much I can say or do. I haven’t read War and Peace for two reasons. One, no one has sold it to me as a worthy read. And, two, yes, the size intimidates me…because I am a terrible reader who would rather be creating than reading.

        You are hardly a Tolstoy or Shakespeare only because none of us are either of them and shouldn’t be. We are individuals as long as we don’t spend our lives emulating others. So, I only use them as comparisons…but, ultimately, you want to be your own star, as dim or bright as that may be.

        Or, as we both thought about…maybe your one big book could be broken down into 2-4 smaller books in a mini-series. That would certainly be more appetizing and give you an opportunity (and, hopefully, not more stress) to create book covers/jackets.

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