On the journey I only did the smallest amount of research and almost never talked about my writing. This was mostly because I was worried I would jinx whatever voodoo, disrupt the energy, kill the mojo, or whatever it was that was making things work.
I remember reading an acknowledgement section where the author said he was giving his book away because he ran out of content before he reached the minimum 100,000 words his publisher required. I was about 50,000 words into my own book by then, so I that's where I threw down the flag. 100,000 came and I remember internally doing back flips in celebration.
|Cue ominous book too long music|
Then I kept going. Right. Cue book-too-long ominous music. A few months later I finished my first manuscript at just over 170,000 words.
I was ecstatic! That was awesome! Booyah!
Editing took nine months and when I finished I had an 180,000 word behemoth. See I'm a put-'er-inner not a take-'er-outer. Still thinking I'm doing okay, I went through and "killed my darlings" taking out excessive adjectives and even pulling an entire story line, creating a novella from that content. Still, even after all that it was still 157,000 words long. Sweet! If 100,000 was good, 157,000 was even better, right?
Those of you in the know are shaking your heads. Right. I know I missed a memo somewhere.
|Someone missed a memo|
What? No way! Google will justify my indignation! Only it didn't. Nor did an email to Dee. Both confirmed the absolute maximum for a debut novel is 120,000 words, but more in the 85-95k range is preferred. It's too expensive to print such ginormous tombs for a new authors. Plus, does your novel need to be that long? Really? No, probably not.
|Google to the rescue!|
Another revision of the query letter, a printout of the MS, and a sharp #2. No more put-'er-inning, only take-'er-outing with some reworked content.
This has been a roller coaster, dipping into the disheartening and stressful with short peaks of optimism. Needless to say not much else is on my mind as of late. It doesn't mean the end of my writing career, it's just a milestone. A smack-along-side-the-head learning experience. Plus, writing a query letter, summarizing your book in a few short sentences is a bitch.
I have challenged myself to see how much I could take out and still have a great story. With that in mind I'm grinding my pencil and checking my ego.
Take-aways for debut novelists:
1) Novel word length goal: 80,000 to 95,000
2) Query letter word length: 250-300
3) Visit QueryShark.BlogSpot.com for query samples. Agent Janet will critique your letter for you
4) Writing a query letter is hard work. No two ways about it. No shortcuts.
5) Visit Agent Query for more help on your query letter.
6) Your letter is more than just to get an agent. Use it to help you focus on the core of your novel. The two actually go hand-in-hand.
7) After you are done editing, spend a few bucks and print your book. Then get a pencil and start marking things off that need to be cut.
Stephen King says it's about story and it's only about story. Thank you again, Mr. King. Right as always.