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?
I have the strangest problem–my novel is too short! Most novelists I have encountered or read blogs on have the opposite problem. My first novel The Healing Pool was CRAZY long and I had to cut it down about 20,000 words. My current project has the whole story written but needs at least 11,000 more words to make the minimum word count for YA novels.
I enjoy cutting back. Finding redundancies and adverbs and lags in the story and slicing them down is satisfying, although also a little sad. Adding words has been a slow and tedious process. I wanted NaNoWriMo to be my motivation to beef up this novel, but if we’re being honest I got only about 5,000 words in. In my mind any adding is great, but it’s frustrating how hard it is to add to this novel. The story line is finished. It makes sense from point A to point B and could work as a novella, but I want this to be novel length. I am proud of this story and I want to have a wider audience to enjoy it. I don’t know anyone who reads novellas. The only reason I know they exist is because we talked about the different kinds of creative writing in High school! I have nothing against novellas, but I wish I knew of more people who were interested in reading them.
Part of my trouble is time and short attention span. Since graduating college I can honestly say I no longer have the stamina to sit and write a paper for 2-3 hours in one sitting. I have no idea how I managed to write as much as I did in school, never mind sit in class for 5 hours a day! Working 52 hours doesn’t help either. Luckily my work hours are going down starting in the new year. Maybe with that extra time I will try to write a little bit more each day. I can only hope Netflix will not beckon me over….
I finally made it through Charley’s Dragons! I’m at a (not so) whopping 32,000 words but I’m feeling okay. The next step is going through it again and beefing up the story now that the plot skeleton is in place. I’m hoping it will be easier than I think it’s going to be!
I noticed as I was going through CD that my genre changed. It was originally New Adult/Adult Fiction, but now it has a YA feel. It covers some heavy topics such as childhood mental illness, but the voice is a child and the dialog with the psychiatrist is accessible for a younger audience. The genre shift has helped the story and also my sanity. The perspective I removed was heavy-handed, dark, but not always engaging. I wanted to write this for an adult, but honestly why force it? The book works much better now and it’s totally fine that it’s YA. My first book and other MSs in process are MG so it makes sense that my writing gravitates for younger readers. Besides, adults love YA fiction! Writing for children is getting better and better and adults love a good story even it is about teenagers.
I’m still hoping to meet my goal and get another 25,000 words done but it’s not the biggest deal if it’s not finished. I wanted NaNo to be the big push, but my writing style works in bursts of inspiration–the downside being that the bursts come at infrequent times at inconsistent lengths. Today was a good day: 1200 words! Tomorrow is my day off so we’ll see if I get anywhere…
How’s everyone else doing with NaNoWriMo? Any great MSs in progress or at least fun brain-dump stories you want to share?