re: When Is Too Many Words Too Many Words?

in Creative Process/General fiction by

Dear Editor…

My fantasy is at 126,000 words; I can probably cut to 115-120K but maybe not to 100K without ruining plot. In a market in which short is seen as more viable, should I worry about this?

Lorie

Dear Lorie…

It’s telling that you think you can cut 6,000-11,000 words. Do it! If you can see those cuts so easily, they’re probably necessary. Avoid indulging in nonessentials (or over-writing), especially when length is an issue. FOCUS is a writing mantra. As for what the market will bear, there’s no definitive “FULL” line. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix clocks in at 257,000 words (766 pages), yet even kids read it. But of course Harry defies most publishing norms. For the rest of us, size matters. Readers are generally daunted by a thick book block, and there’s only so much interior design and paper tweaking can do to slim it. Maybe e-books will change that since we don’t see a physical hunk of paper and ink, but for now, thick can thwart. Can you break your story into two or more episodes? Consider tying up subplots or phases of your story in separate books even as you keep greater character and plot arcs going across multiple installments.

Happy writing!
The Editor

7 Comments

  1. This is excellent advice. I was recently thinking about this myself as I am constantly going over and over my manuscript. I’m definitely going to print out the word “focus” and tape it to my wall.

    Since I work in a library, I see patrons who pick up a new book by an unfamiliar author and the look over it. They flip through the pages and heft it (seriously). BEFORE they read the blurb. About half of them are not afraid to take on a massive book but I see the other half put it back and grab the smaller less daunting paperback!

  2. Stephen King, in his book, ” Stephen King on Writing,” says put the work away for a full month and begins something else. Then when you return to it, you’re seeing it with fresh eyes. He also commands that a writer slash without regret all (or almost all) adverbs and adjectives. Since you’re dealing with a fantasy, there’s every possibility the story is replete with “ly” words, etc.

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