Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Cut it OUT! Getting Your Novel to the Preferred Word Count

In the next two weeks many things will come to a close. My time in Santa Barbara will be over.  My husband's program in New Jersey will end. I'm hoping our house in Phoenix will finally be rented out again. And last but not least, I will have edited out 25,000 words from my manuscript.

Wait, what?!

Yes. There is a desired word count for many agents and publishers which has me freaking out most days. In fact, I think my stress level has officially gone through the roof.

It seems the maximum word count that a typical agent or publisher will review for a DEBUT young adult or genre fiction manuscript is 120k. That is the ABSOLUTE max. Their favorite word count is anywhere between 90 - 110k.  So far I have been able to get mine down to 142k - only a measly 4000 word decrease from my original 146k. Yeah. You see my problem.

Christian keeps reminding me that I'm not even halfway through the editing process - I've only gone through 80 pages.  There's still a lot I may be able to take out. Then I remind him that I would need to take out several chapters. A friend of mine kindly suggested moving parts of the story to the sequel. This might work, if the parts I had in my book weren't necessary to move the plot along in this novel. So far, things aren't looking too good.

I say all this without knowing for absolute certain that an agent will not be interested in my current 142,000 word manuscript. Some do like epic fantasy novels that encourage book after book until the tome of a conclusion. Occasionally someone will write something so amazing and wonderful it is worth it's 200k word count. But usually those books are cut in half and sold as a set.  142k isn't exactly easy to cut into two, especially considering the story line. Eragon was sold on 157k, which gives me hope, especially because the writing in that book often makes me cringe.  But then again, I found non-sentences in Breaking Dawn that didn't work in context, so there you go. There's no accounting for taste.

With that in mind, all I can do is edit the best I know how, write a kick ass query, and hope the agents I contact are a good match and interested.  There is only so much I can do.  The key is that I trim it down to a glittering point. This way, when an agent or publisher reads it, they don't sift through superfluous sentences and grammatical errors.  Instead they find themselves lost in a magical world that every teenager dreams of. Yeah. I'm shooting for that one.

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