When I finished my manuscript for my second novel, it clocked in at 160,000 words.
Pretty impressive, huh? Double the word count of my first novel. A little long, maybe, but hey, J.K. Rowling has a few novels out that approach the 200,000 mark. And it had taken me several years to string them all together, so those words were GOLD, baby.
Okay. Maybe not.
Somewhere on my writing journey, I’d read that when you think you’ve finished, cut 10 percent of your manuscript to make it sing. I cut 20,000 words, bringing it down to a barely-there 140,000, then sent it off to my agent.
Who was not as delighted as I’d hoped he’d be.
The characters were compelling, he explained, but all those words slowed down the pace. Perhaps I should consider cutting a few more words.
After a few nights of chocolate and wine, I realized he was right. With all those words, my characters were suffocating. They needed room to move, and the reader needed space to envision them. So I did the big rewrite first.
And I got down to 120,000 words. A good, solid story. But still too long. Not because of some arbitrary word count, but because when I reread it, I still felt as if the pacing could be tighter, the tension higher. A trusted beta reader agreed.
So I put my manuscript on a diet. These are the steps I followed to lose the word weight: [Read more…]