I recently read a brilliant piece by my friends at WriteOnSisters (are you not following them? Why not??) that touched on word count.
Agents and publishers have word count goals by genre, and you should be within it – and then the post discussed how to do that in their typically brilliant way.
Mystery solved – Here are the goals. (From Writer’s Digest)
ADULT NOVELS: COMMERCIAL & LITERARY, including mainstream, women’s, romance, mystery, suspense, thriller, horror and Chick lit (but chick lit books tend to be a bit shorter and faster, 70-75K)
80,000 and 89,999
Below 70,000: Too short
110,000 or above Too long
SCI-FI AND FANTASY
100,000 – 115,000
Middle grade is from 20,000 – 55,000
55,000 – 69,999
The standard is text for 32 pages, and 500-600 words.
50K to 80K. 65,000
All that trimming is easier said than done, though, right, my voluminous friends?
Here’s the thing, writers: it’s better to have too much than too little, because it’s easier to cut than to add in a meaningful way – so when you use the analysis of “does this advance the plot or develop a character, etc.,” you can also pull a section out and just say it in fewer words.
A 600 word passage about the metaphor of the old barn and the MC’s marriage, while possibly one of your darlings, can easily get boiled down to a few lines – and if you can do that a few times, you’re home free. Just copy paste it into another document, sum it up, and paste it back in.
Painful, but simple.
Use the bigger passage for your blog or as a bonus section on your fan page. (It’s okay to cry, just do it when nobody else is home. Funeral services for the deceased passages are not okay.)
You can also have your critique partners and beta readers on the lookout for places to cut (and there are always places to cut if you went over 100,000 words). Cut what they tell you to cut. Again, simple but painful.
Usually there’s a long passage in the overworded tome that can go, and sometimes a whole chapter can. (Guilty!) We don’t want to cut it because we worked hard to create it – but that doesn’t mean it should stay. Sometimes WE need that information as writers, but the reader doesn’t. Write it, refer to it when needing guidance about your character, but don’t leave it in the book.
Most of the time when you’re done cutting, readers say the pace is better. That’s a nice way of saying it was too wordy and dragged before, and besides, if it’s too long, readers won’t read it.
Publishers don’t make rules to be mean, they make rules to help sell books.
Help them help you. Follow their guidelines.
And die a little, yeah…
People are reading your stuff and enjoying it. Then you’ll be alive in ways you never knew possible.
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Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the upcoming hilarious and educational “Write Better Books” – wonder what that’s about. Check out his other works here http://www.amazon.com/Dan-Alatorre/e/B00EUX7HEU/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1425128559&sr=1-1 and check back often for interesting stuff.