Wednesday, January 14, 2009

First Novel - Are You Saying Too Much?

Did you know this? I was advised by someone I trust in the business that a first novel should never have more than 90,000 words.

This was a terrible blow to me, having just completed, triumphantly, 126,000 words. It seems that agents and publishers have enough trouble assessing new writers, without the added problem of too fat a book; such wordiness no doubt would cause increased costs, with the possibility of insignificant revenues, should the book do poorly. I am unable to find the words to say how much this upset me. Perhaps my book will do well, but it certainly won't be doing it with the original 500 pages.

I've already begun the task of whittling away words, paragraphs - even pages, to get my MS down to the prerequisite number, and it seemed impossible, at the beginning. Now I find it's not quite as bad as I thought. There is a sense of serious spring cleaning, not just the weekly chores. I was saddened to cut sections that I saw as imperative to the story, but, in fact, they weren't. For instance, my heroine travels a lot, but I chopped out all reference to one particular country, because it had no bearing on the forward movement of the book, even though it was a nice read. I save these abandoned chunks to another document file as I go, where I can probably use them in another book, with revisions, in the future.

So, if you are in the middle of a 500-page saga, hang on a bit. Are all those words really necessary?

Thanks, Christopher, my writing buddy, for pointing this out to me. I'm not happy, and the writing ego is somewhat crushed, but I get it.

I have a cunning plan up my sleeve, however. I'm keeping the original 126,000-word MS in its original state. If some agent gets really excited over my work, and is full of huge optimism and grand plans for me, I can always whip it out and say, "I just happen to have a larger version. Want to check it out?"

We moan and whine at writers' block; we blog excitedly about our daily word count; we agonize over revisions; we use a lot of expletives during proofing; we expect to squirm at the query stage. And all the while, we are blissfully unaware that we're writing too much. Who would have thought it?


Quotes to Consider

"If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, Either write things worth reading, or do things worth writing." ~Benjamin Franklin

"Well behaved women rarely make history."~Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”~William G.T. Shedd (1820-1894), theologian, teacher, pastor

"It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something." ~Franklin D Roosevelt (1882-1945), 32nd U.S. president

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), essayist, poet, philosopher

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." ~Mark Twain

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."
~ Wayne Gretzky