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Al Stevens
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Al Stevens

Number of posts : 1727
Registration date : 2010-05-11
Location : Florida

Word count Empty
PostSubject: Word count   Word count EmptyWed Dec 29, 2010 9:02 am

I finished the manuscript at last. Written, rewritten, proofread, edited, clean and mean, and ready to go. However...

Several knowledgeable sources tell me that the magic upper number for word count for submissions from a new writer of fiction (I am an old writer of non-fiction) is 120,000 words. I counted my words. 128,000.

I have begun for the 2nd time (the 1st was just an exercise in rewriting to improve the story) the task of pruning excess verbiage and dropping non-essential scenes and descriptions. Given that it's the second time around, it is an extremely painful task. Especially deleting scenes. I tell myself that even though my carefully crafted description of Autumn leaves and my travelogue of Switzerland in the 1960s add nothing to the story, they help to define the protagonist's character. That's what I'm telling myself.

Myself is unsympathetic and uncaring. Hit that cutting room floor. Get rid of 8,000 words. That's what myself is telling me.
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http://alstevens.blogspot.com
dkchristi
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dkchristi

Number of posts : 8594
Registration date : 2008-12-29
Location : Florida

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PostSubject: Re: Word count   Word count EmptyWed Dec 29, 2010 11:14 am

No matter what you do, a good editor at the publisher will cut more. It's inevitable. I had so much cut from Ghost Orchid I could write a sequel (well, that is a bit of exaggeration) and one reviewer complained that more backstory (the cut part) was needed as well as a longer story because she didn't want it to end. Go figure...

I cut an entire book length from Arirang: The Bamboo Connection, and it is still too long.
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Al Stevens
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Al Stevens

Number of posts : 1727
Registration date : 2010-05-11
Location : Florida

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PostSubject: Re: Word count   Word count EmptyWed Dec 29, 2010 5:49 pm

I got it down to about 120,500 today. Without hurting it too badly. And I'm only half way through the manuscript. But it's getting harder. I'm getting into the action scenes now, and they're already tight.

I think you need the right to approve or disapprove editorial changes. Maybe that means cancelling the contract and returning the advance. I always had final say-so on my books. And I never had one cancelled over those issues.
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dkchristi
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dkchristi

Number of posts : 8594
Registration date : 2008-12-29
Location : Florida

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PostSubject: Re: Word count   Word count EmptyWed Dec 29, 2010 6:40 pm

My editor was a peach. She didn't make one change without consulting with me; in all cases I agreed with her approach even if I didn't like losing my precious words or changing things. I knew it was just me wanting to keep my story the same when she helped make it flow much better.
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Al Stevens
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Al Stevens

Number of posts : 1727
Registration date : 2010-05-11
Location : Florida

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PostSubject: Re: Word count   Word count EmptyThu Dec 30, 2010 6:11 am

Flow. She was acting not only as editor but as manuscript doctor. Been there. Had that done for me. Can't do without it. What I want them to do is suggest where the changes ought to be then let me write it.
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Al Stevens
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Al Stevens

Number of posts : 1727
Registration date : 2010-05-11
Location : Florida

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PostSubject: Re: Word count   Word count EmptyFri Dec 31, 2010 11:49 am

114,000 today. Still only half way. I think I'll shoot for 100,000. As I prune scenes and verbiage, the narrative gets tighter, more action, less meandering through the scenery.
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Al Stevens
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Al Stevens

Number of posts : 1727
Registration date : 2010-05-11
Location : Florida

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PostSubject: Re: Word count   Word count EmptySat Jan 01, 2011 9:05 am

111,000 and counting. Where am I going to find 11,000 words to expunge? But, I started at 128,000 three days ago, and I found 17,000 unneeded words since then, the deletion of which does not compromise the story, and I am still working in the first half of the manuscript.

I must be one verbose fellow. Ask Abe and Joe. They read this tome when it was bulging at the sides. Abe's the one who said of one chapter, "it reads like a travelogue." Poof, that took care of a bunch of words.
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dkchristi
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dkchristi

Number of posts : 8594
Registration date : 2008-12-29
Location : Florida

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PostSubject: Re: Word count   Word count EmptySat Jan 01, 2011 9:17 am

That's the problem with my first novel, Arirang: the Bamboo Connection. Though I cut over 500 pages, I was determined to incorporate in the novel every piece of soil with which I was familiar...a little too much soil :-) The goal, however, was to take the reader on their own "Grand Tour." I should have written that book in three books: Asia, Europe and the Caribbean. Then I could have threaded the story line with beginnings and partial endings for a series. All of this process is educational. It's grand that we can learn from each other.
-
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Abe F. March
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Abe F. March

Number of posts : 10720
Registration date : 2008-01-26
Age : 80
Location : Germany

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PostSubject: Re: Word count   Word count EmptySat Jan 01, 2011 11:50 am

I loved DK's book, although she didn't think so when I became critical of too much fluff. I think, as with Al, the time for critic is before publication. Afterwards, critique doensn't help much. And, keep in mind, one author's opinion doesn't represent the engtire reading public.
As expressed by DK, cutting out things that are meaningful to the author is tough.
And then there are places where more needs added to provide the reader with a better picture of places and/or events. That's where a good editor makes a difference. I call it challenge editing. They challange you on how you may have expressed a thought, suggesting re-wording or re-writing, all intended to improve the story. Based on numerous comments I read, I think many authors are looking for a Spell checker - someone editing for grammar. That is important, but not what I'm referencing. If the reader becomes puzzled about a scene or event, it suggests a problem. Challenging the author to clarify or use other words to express the event is good. If the reader becomes bored, it can signify too much detail or simply uninteresting. Those things are ripe for cutting.
I'm no expert and don't expect I will ever become one. I have my own opinion about what I like and don't like. What appeals to me and what bores me. I like a book where I can't wait to learn what happens next - a real page turner.
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Al Stevens
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Al Stevens

Number of posts : 1727
Registration date : 2010-05-11
Location : Florida

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PostSubject: Re: Word count   Word count EmptySun Jan 02, 2011 11:43 am

Just under 106,000. That's enough cutting. I'll have to read it one more time to find whatever errors crept in during the cutting session. And to see if there's any more bloat I can eliminate.

In a 6x9 format with .75" margins and a 12 point font, it's 325 pages. That doesn't seem excessive.
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Al Stevens
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Al Stevens

Number of posts : 1727
Registration date : 2010-05-11
Location : Florida

Word count Empty
PostSubject: Re: Word count   Word count EmptyMon Jan 03, 2011 3:07 pm

103,000. Couldn't help myself. As I started to re-read, I found more fodder for the floor.
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Al Stevens
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Al Stevens

Number of posts : 1727
Registration date : 2010-05-11
Location : Florida

Word count Empty
PostSubject: Re: Word count   Word count EmptyTue Jan 04, 2011 12:53 pm

101,000. Close enough.

This exercise in bloat reduction involves choosing narrative that is non-essential. Other than for the usual purge of extra words and saying phrases in fewer numbers of words, it is mainly a matter of deleting scenes and dialogue that don't contribute to the characters or the story.

I was able to purge 27,000 words from a 128,000 word manuscript that I thought was already tight. Yet the story is still told. I hope. My wife is editing now to find typos that fell out of the purge and to tell me if things don't make sense without something that got deleted.

Authors tell things in narrative that are unimportant for at least these reasons.

1. The reader already knows it.
2. The reader can surmise it.
3. The reader does not need to know it.

What can you add to this list?
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JoElle
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JoElle

Number of posts : 1311
Registration date : 2008-05-09

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PostSubject: Re: Word count   Word count EmptyTue Jan 04, 2011 1:23 pm

My publisher was awesome, when they read "A Bridge in the Forest" they didn't want to cut any of it.

But at over 96,000 words it was too long for a young adult novel. Rather than start butchering it, they suggested it be made into two shorter novels.

That's how my trilogy became a four book series.

One thing I keep hearing from readers is that once they begin book one, they just can't stop turning the pages.

Being told that means more than money to me.
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Al Stevens
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Al Stevens

Number of posts : 1727
Registration date : 2010-05-11
Location : Florida

Word count Empty
PostSubject: Re: Word count   Word count EmptyFri Jan 07, 2011 6:40 am

Today begins the trim of the attributives. All those unneeded "he said," "she said" phrases in dialogue. I'll let you know how many words they yield.
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LC
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LC

Number of posts : 5044
Registration date : 2009-03-28

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PostSubject: Re: Word count   Word count EmptyFri Jan 07, 2011 3:26 pm

I have the opposite problem. After writing two technical texts and one trade nonfic, I have paring words down to a science. "Just the facts ma'am." Which is not conducive to novel writing, as I learned when I began my attempt to write one. I had to start a program of reading novels just to SEE that scenery and mood-setting has to be described, much less described in X number of words, lol.

I had gotten out of novel reading for a very long time; I only read nonfic. I had forgotten how fun novels could be.

Not that this helps you, just thought I'd go on a tangent. Smile
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