Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Forever Tweaker

Okay. So in reading agents' blogs, I started freaking out about word count again. Many genres have norms and you can't really go outside that box. Since my book will probably go upper-YA with all my teen MCs, my word count is way off, by 20,000 words at least. I did have 106,000 words, and then started paring it down, gunning for 97,000 or so.

However, when I did my final edit in the spring, I made sure things were worded a specific way to provide good rhythm and meter, to create a zingy voice and to secretly reinforce my themes with subliminal messages. And the over-pruning I did this week gave the narrative a choppy feel and stripped a lot of that out. I was almost at 101,000, only nine chapters in, but returned some needed lines or phrases to alleviate the stilted feel and to reclaim my voice. A strong voice is just as important as a solid plot, good pacing and well-developed characters. It's one of the key things agents look for in the first few pages. So I can't lose that.

Now I'm closer 102,000 again. I'm still tweaking to get my word count under 100,000 at least. Some darlings will have to be cut. I still have many more chapters to prune and maybe I can reach my hope of 97,000 words, but if I don't, I'm not going to fret. I'm just going to pass around the best story I can.

Now, my word count being out of the norm may mean an automatic rejection. But I'd rather have my work in good condition then to have a stick-figure effort that will get to go on shelves because--yippee--it fits in the typical box but is sub-par at best.

The complexity of my novel can't be streamlined into 80,000 words. It can't. My book doesn't snag or drag in spots. Everything affects the main plot and the MC's reaction to it.

Stephenie Meyer allowed Bella to repeat the same things over and over about a beautiful, sparkling vampire, beyond 118,000 words, and that passed by the conference table. I can only hope my word count doesn't doom my work, but trashing and slashing it to fit the norm would do it just the same.

Above all, you must have a good story. And I know I have that.

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.


  1. Hi Courtney. Could you conceivably split the story so you have a sequel? On the other hand, I really think if your work has merit someone will pick it up.

  2. If you hadn't mentioned Meyer's tome, I would have. If the story is well-written and strong enough (and whether hers is or not is a matter of taste), you can still get it published.

    Good luck!

  3. No. It can't be split. Thanks for the suggestion though. The core of the plot is a mystery and everything is tethered to the reveal. The whole story is about that. The bad guys need to be known by the end.

  4. Thanks, Darc. I haven't read Twilight yet, but I have heard about it and the way it is written. Some people love it, some don't. It has captivated an audience effectively though, so I do intend to read the series in the near future for the things that can be learned from it.

  5. Word count woes. Remember what Steinbeck said when he posted a mock conversation with his publishers? "Here's my book, do you want it or not?" They had claimed that it was too long, nobody would be patient enough to read it. Then they claimed it was too short, nobody would want to pay to read a short book. So apparently, the reader is not only an idiot, but also suffers from A.D.D.. You said yourself that your story is great, now it feels choppy. Please don't ruin it to meet the whims of a picky agent. It is, after all, your product and your work. To them, it's a paycheck.

    Sorry I haven't visited here in a while, I've been focusing heavily on the new novel! Great to see that you are doing well!

  6. Thanks so much for your insight. It's good to hear from you. Thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment.

  7. Once the story’s solid, get it out there and see what happens. If you grab interest from early on it, I don’t think being a tad heavy on the word count will matter. Work with it until an editor/publisher tells you to get out that red pen again.

  8. That's the thing. I haven't gotten a lot of interest--not that I've queried a ton--and I'm wondering if my word count is why. When you don't get feedback except a form rejection, it's not helpful in knowing what's off-putting. And that makes me want to tweak everything.