Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Too Many Words!

Paula is trying to cut words.

After finally getting to the end of my current ‘work in progress’, I felt it was too long, 122,336 words to be exact! As a result, I’ve been on a big word-cutting marathon.

My other novels have ranged from about 70K words to 88K. Based on that, it seems I need to ‘lose’ about 34,000 words – which is equivalent to approximately 7 or 8 chapters!

So far, I’ve worked hard on the first ten chapters – reducing ‘over-wording’, trying to be more concise, deleting unnecessary dialogue, condensing some scenes, and actually cutting a couple of very minor scenes.

I’ve reduced 45,819 words to 42,062, a loss of 3757. If I reduce the remaining chapters at the same rate, it will end up about 110,000.

I queried this with my publisher, and her initial comment was, “Just use whatever words are necessary to tell the story.” However, she then went on to say that currently novels between 50,000 and 85,000 words sell better than those over 100,000.

So now my dilemma is: do I submit a novel of over 100,000 words, or do I find some way to reduce the wordage even more?

I’ve considered changing the ‘start’ point of the novel to later in the story, but this means I would lose the early ‘conflict’ between the hero and heroine, and the development of their relationship, both of which underpin the later part of the story.

I’ve never been in this situation before, as my previous novels all fell within the 70-88,000 parameters after thorough editing, so I’m unsure what to do with this one. Any advice?


  1. Unfortunately, I'm more often on the opposite side of the spectrum of this. I usually find myself needing to add words rather than take them away.

    I think your editor is right on need to tell the story in the manner in which you feel is best. If cutting so many words from your story changes it too much, then it isn't the story you intended to tell.

    Just because 'shorter' novels are selling 'better' doesn't mean there isn't a market and desire for longer ones.

    Now that I think of it, I did have to cut part of a chapter and the epilogue from my last release. The rest of the chapter didn't bother me, since it was something I'd added to up the word count, but I still do miss that epilogue. I might post it on my web-site as an 'out take'.

    1. Thanks, Debra! While I'm working my way through this story, I'm starting to realise that even the early part (which I thought might be rather slow) is still fairly fast-paced with lots of things 'happening'. Therefore I'm finding it hard to delete any of the various developments.
      That's a good idea to post your epilogue as an out-take!
      Because I had so many false starts with this story, I have loads of scenes I didn't eventually use. I'm keeping them ion case I ever want to use any of them in another story!

  2. I say tell the story and don't worry about the word count. A engaging story will hold a reader's attention, and she's still be sorry when it's over. JMO.

    1. That's what I'm hoping, Ana! As long as the story moves along and keeps readers reading to find out what happens, they won't notice the length.

  3. I'd go through and cut as much as you can and then don't worry about it.