Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cutting Down a Book

I'm back from what was a ridiculously prolonged illness, not helped by a lot of traveling. Also, I don't get a lot of emails asking questions, or not a lot of emails asking questions I haven't answered already in the blog, so that cuts down on the posts.

I wrote a YA/Paranormal novel, but am having an issue with it's length. I know the accepted length is around 80K-100K words for this genre, but the readers who have read mine say it reads well and should be left in tact. The novel is well over twice the accepted word count, though. Is it in my best interest to cut the book down before I seek an agent or leave it as is, seek an agent now, and work with an editor to scale it back?

So from your email I don't know exactly how long it is, but the general rule is that if you can find things to cut, you should be cutting them, and if you can't find anything to cut, then the novel really is that long and agents will have to deal or you'll have to write another novel. If your YA novel is 200,000 words as it sounds like it is, that's just too long for a first book. Go write another, shorter book while this one is on the shelf. When you're published you can get away with crazier stuff.

Disregard this if you're in India, because from what I've seen the Indian English-language fiction market makes for like, crazy-long novels. Or many books that are one novel because the binding was just getting too big. I remember being in the Delhi airport and deciding, sadly, not to plunk my money down on a historical novel because it was ten books long and I was fairly sure I couldn't obtain the other nine books outside of India. I have enough trouble getting stuff from the UK and Australia.

9 comments:

Naomi said...

There's also the option of instead of cutting it down, cutting it into two books.

Rhys Milner said...

Agree with Naomi there. Though to do this you of course need to find a place in the middle that works to cut. Something with a decent sense of closure that can stand alone. Not every huge book can be cut into two, but a great deal can, with a little bit of rewrite.

Shelby said...

I was gonna say what Naomi said. Two books.

Voidwalker said...

"I know that normally________, but I_______."

It's the defensive position of the ages. Everyone wants to believe they are special and can wiggle around the system. The truth is, nobody has that right but me, because, well... I'm special.

oh wait. :P

J/k

Good respectful response.

Brian Drake said...

I'm impressed that the writer can put 200,000 words in one manuscript. If I do 80k I feel good!

Anonymous said...

Happy new year, Rejecter. Glad you're back and feeling better.

J.D. Roa said...

Hi, Rejecter. I found you through the P&E website, and I'm glad. Your advice is so helpful and the e-mails are funny. 200,000 is pretty long for a first book - and in my opinion, it's pretty long for any contemporary novel. I'm ignorant of the list of long, great reads of 2000-2009 though.

Sam Albion said...

I have a 220,000 MS here. I have hacked, and hacked, and can only get it down to 190,000... To cut more, I have to remove characters. I don't want to. What do I do next? I'm sending it around anyway. If ten ppl get back, and say it's great, but it needs cutting, then I suppose... bah...

Yokel (TKS) said...

Authors who write long (like me!) can also hire an independent editor or workshop a long manuscript as well. Sometimes we spend so much time on a manuscript we can't be objective about what ought to stay. A good friend who is a writer (or an intelligent reader) can also point out areas that could be cut without changing the storyline (in fact, this can strengthen a storyline).

Tamara
www.writersrainbow.com