Monday, 22 February 2016

Does size matter? #writetip

Veronica from Marbella has a problem with her novel being too long: I’ve been told by many people (and seen it on countless websites) that publishers won’t look at debut novels that are too long. I’ve been told mine, a story set in the days of the French Resistance, should be between 70,000 and 90,000 words. I’m only about two-thirds of the way into it and it’s already over 85,000 words. What should I do? Should I cut out one of the characters? Change the plot slightly? Take out one of the subplots? Please help, because I can’t bear the thought of spending all this time writing a book and then being told it’s too long to be published.

First of all, the thing to bear in mind about word count guidelines is that is all they are – guidelines. If a stunning novel landed on an agent or publisher’s desk that they simply couldn’t put down, there is no way it would be rejected as being too long, even if it was well over the standard word count!

Secondly, you have said yourself that you haven’t even finished the book yet, so there is no way of knowing what should be cut, if anything.

A first draft is just a way of getting your thoughts and ideas down on paper. When you go through your first rewrite you will automatically cut sentences, paragraphs, maybe even entire scenes, because they don’t fit. You may find that you have two or three minor players who could be morphed into one stronger character, which again would affect the word count.

On second, third, fourth and fifth drafts, you’ll tighten dialogue, cut out all the padding and unnecessary adjectives and adverbs.

By the time your novel is ready to be sent anywhere, it will be a much smoother, sleeker beast than the one you are currently wrestling with. Get the words down and leave the worries about length and publishing needs until you’ve polished your baby so that it gleams. If it does that, no one will care if it’s a few thousand words more than the guidelines say it should be.

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