Wednesday, January 4, 2012

My super secret formula

So I'm on chapter 19. For anyone not familiar with my writing style, my chapters average about 4-5000 words per chapter, so that puts the WIP at between 80K and 100K, right where the agents supposedly like manuscripts, particularly by new authors. Unfortunately, my WIP as currently outlined runs 42 chapters, which would put us at 200K words, far more than agents are willing to stick their necks out for.

Not to worry. At this moment, I'm eyeing chapter 28, at which point the meat of the novel picks up. That means I have about 9 chapters of "fluff." Okay, it's not fluff, but I believe I can condense it into 2 chapters. A lot of it is old material. Things I wrote when I was first outlining the thing that are no longer relevant. That's the easy part to cut. The harder part to cut is the banter between the protag and his love interest. I seem to have accumulated an awful lot of it and I've been sweeping it past the chapters that move the plot along to a nice pause in the plot where I can get it out in the open, but I didn't realize I had this much of it. I could fill a whole book with nothing but political argument and sexual innuendo between my protag and his love interest alone.

It's hard to part with. The tension between them is essential to the plot, but I'd like to get as close to the 120K work count limit set by agents as possible. I'm at a crossroads. I can cut and dump some of this into a second book, or something subsequent, or I can throw the rules out the window and press on, let the chips fall where they may. If I had to guess, I'd say that, if I told this thing naturally, the way I wanted to, I'd tell it in about 160K words. (And that's not 160K of purple prose. I think I'm pretty word efficient when I've whittled and re-written.) That's 40K too many, by conventional thinking.

I'm sure there are seasoned authors out there who scoff at anyone who can't tell a story in 120K or less. But then, somewhere along the line, I realized I don't give a shit about what other authors or agents think. It's not that I don't want to give myself the best chance for success. I'd be lying if I said I don't. It's just that, this is a space opera with political, romantic, and sci-fi threads that are intertwined and run deep. I don't feel like I can leave any of the three threadbare. I feel the need to develop them all to their fullest in order to give the reader the right picture. Maybe I'm just not good enough to do it in fewer words, but I think the WIP will come in well over the recommended amount of words. And I won't sweat it.


  1. I just read The Lion - by Nelson Demille and his books - particularly this one - are full of snark. I LOVE snark.
    It's a long book too but there is quite a bit of action. It didn't feel too long to me. There were things I didn't like but length and witty chatter weren't two of them!
    Despite the oft repeated adage about length - I do think you can get away with more if your story needs it. That's up to you to decide. Need me to beta read it, Fred?

  2. If I ever finish it, I would love that. Due to the length, I'll be offering my critique/beta reads on 2 manuscripts in return, as long as it's not erotica. I just don't want to go there. Romance or suspense would be great, if you need the opinion of a guy.

  3. I have a suspense - no erotic action in sight! My husband would rather have his teeth drilled than read my romance stuff!