Sunday, December 13, 2009

Word Count

I can't remember if I've thought about this, talked about it or written about it. If I can't remember, I seriously doubt you can.

The subject of word count has come up several times during the contest. Star of Justice is one of the higher word count submissions. Naturally, I am quite interested in these discussions.

In single space/12 font, Star of Justice is 314 pages long. I always assumed that would be close to the final, published page count of the book. Books are smaller, but so is the font. I don't believe I've ever learned a conversion guide for computer type to printed type.

According to an MLS poster (and I have no reason to doubt him), it's actually closer to 500 pages. That's a lot of pages, even to me. No wonder people are hesitating.

I didn't have a page count in mind when I wrote. I just wrote until the story was finished. I covered all the bases, answered all the questions I meant to answer in this book, and called it done. It happened to be done at 166,000 words.

My writing process is to start with a quick sketch of the scene using emotional dialogue or action. My second sweep adds specific actions for each character that move the scene forward. Finally, I add sensory details to bring the action to sometimes delicious, occasionally disgusting life. I gained weight writing this book because many scenes revolve around eating, and I didn't want to be the only one left out.

Early on in the contest, a writer admitted his book was 150,000 words and Jeff the Publisher wanted him to cut it down to 120,000. That's 30,000 words. By my (albeit shaky) math and tiny solar calculator, that's over 100 pages.

Now, maybe that author's book can benefit from the cutting. He seemed at peace with the decision. Maybe that peace had to come after some wailing and gnashing of teeth.

I can't imagine cutting 100 pages from my book.

I have always expected to do some rewriting. I've done my best to prepare it for publication as is, but I learned yesterday, having one other writer look at something can be invaluable for spotting wasted words.

A few posters at MLS would tell me to suck it up and slash and burn, baby. My paraphrase. Boy howdy, though, would Star of Justice really be better without Horus and Callista, Master Thall and Tusk and Daria? Those are the people in the scenes most likely to get cut. I don't know if I like the idea of a book without them.

I don't want to borrow trouble. Maybe whatever publisher picks it up won't mind the word count. It just occurred to me I might want to prepare myself for the possibility.

I'll let you know when the wailing begins.

2 comments:

  1. The first draft of my book was 182,000 words. Agents kept telling me publishers don't want a book by an unknown that's more than 100,000. The first version Jeff read was 156,000, and he told me it needed to be 100,000. I did get it down to 99,000, but that required hacking some charming but not plot-necessary scenes. I also had to eliminate some characters completely. It was hard.

    I keep those scenes in a separate folder, called "deleted scenes." Like on a DVD. It was hard, but I have to admit the book is ten times better than it used to be. But every book is different. Some books need to be that long.

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  2. Kristen, thank you for confirming my worst fears! Oh well. I'll hold out 'til Jeff gives me the harsh news himself :)

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