I’m going to be totally honest: My published novel is way too long for it’s genre. Word count may be subjective, but when you’re a new writer it’s a good idea to stay within the suggested guidelines. At the time, I didn’t have the heart to cut it down to the “ideal” word count for a middle grade fantasy. I still believe The Healing Pool is a good story, although if I hadn’t published yet I would totally be slashing away to trim it down.
Since The Healing Pool was published I’ve gotten much more concise with my writing. I’ve gotten better (with the help of critique partners) finding areas that drag and cutting them to get to the good parts. For middle grade (MG) that’s especially important. Young readers want action, drama, interest and not too much backstory. As much as I love backstory, I always end up cutting at least 80% of it from the initial draft for that age group. My latest MG novels are at a comfortable length of 35-40K words. Just in the sweet spot for the genre.
However, my new found joy in trimming the fat has come to bite me in the rear with my young adult (YA) novel. The first draft halted at a mere 48K words, just too short to compete with other YA books. For the first time in a while, I’m finding it hard to get more into the backstory or really hash out some arguments between characters, even when I have the luxury to expand, explain, and elaborate to my heart’s content. I’ve gotten used to writing fast-paced action, but with this book I should take more time. I need more practice hashing out relationships between characters. I’ve taken the time to do that over the past few months, and it’s been a painful process of adding sentences here, extra dialog there, with only the occasional burst of adding or doubling a chapter.
With several novels at various stages of completion, I should be glad I’ve gotten the editing bug. I enjoy working on a completed piece. It’s challenging yes, but sometimes it’s a relief to have a complete plot and just work on the details! I’m just at the end of the third draft of my YA novel and somehow managed to add about 10K words from the original. It’s satisfying to watch my novel creep up from still MG length to a just-acceptable length for a YA book. I’m hoping the changes are positive ones that stick and can continue to grow. My biggest fear is that when I come back to it after a break/critique group, all those lovely words will be eaten by the delete key…
Anyone else watch their word count like a non-boiling pot? Anyone have trouble cutting even one word from a first draft?