1. Garball
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    Garball Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand. Supporter Contributor

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    Losing Length

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Garball, Jun 2, 2014.

    I have decided to rewrite my MS which is currently around 86000 words. Several of the mistakes I made were telling the reader something I wanted to tell, not needed to tell and giving too colorful a backstory that (in some instances) doesn't have a direct effect on the current story. I'm going back and trimming the fat, but this will definitely drop the book below 80k.
    Will agents look at books in the 70K range, or is that considered too short for a speculative fiction?
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Unless it's super exceptional, I would recommend sticking to the word count of 80-100k.
     
  3. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Editing isn't just about cutting, it's about strengthening the work. Don't just look for one type of problem, look for other areas for improvement. If you've included too much backstory or have been too descriptive, you may very well have neglected some other aspect of your story or of your characters. Look for those. You may have opportunities to flesh out scenes.

    In no case would I leave something in a story solely because I was concerned about keeping up the word count. In fact, since you haven't gone ove 100K, I'd forget about word count for the moment and just work on the ms.

    Good luck with it.
     
  4. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ed makes a good point. For all the times I've gone through with a machete and chopped out excessive dialog, overdescription, nitty-gritty action details, and the like, I've found just as many places where I was too quick to blow past potential emotion, places where summary cut short a possible internal conflict, places where speaking as an objective narrator prevented my character from showing the world through her bias.

    I often wind up with fewer words when I'm done a new draft, but the difference is small. And I cut a lot. Which means I often add back almost as much. Shorter is not always better.
     
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  5. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    I'll concur with @xanadu

    Can't say how many times I cut out pages worth of words only to add more here and there as I modify other segments that needed some spit and polish.

    Usually, I lose much less than you'd think in word count or I might even gain some as small parts became more fleshed and detailed.

    Don't worry about keeping yourself in that word count bracket, it only gives an author a terrible stress headache. Just make your manuscript perfect and then worry about the word count and the 75k-100k bracket typically is quite a bit of breathing room. Even if you're bit under, don't add fluff as it might simply seem forced in (readers and published both notice uneeded word bloating).
     
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  6. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Perhaps Garball is like me. I tend to take stuff out when I edit, leaving me with a shorter piece that is stronger than before.
     
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  7. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    @Garball

    Based on 99% of the work posted here, there's a good chance your draft is lacking context. Things like "why is this important to the character and under what lense is being perceived?" Or " how does my MC respond to that?" Should buff your word count.
     
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  8. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    If a piece is well-written, the reader isn't going to notice the length. They'll be enjoying themselves too much to care. But if they think oh this is going on too long...? That certainly means you're doing something wrong—but sometimes cutting length isn't the answer. Instead you may need to add something to make the trip more absorbing for the reader.

    A three-hour journey in a car can be either fun or very boring. It's not the length of the journey that makes a trip, it's the companionship inside the car with you, the scenery going past outside the car, the road music you're listening to, the sun on your arm, wind in your hair, the scent of fresh-cut fields, (or fresh-laid manure) etc. If you need a pee, or the only thing you care about is reaching your destination as fast as possible, then the trip will probably be boring and you'll want it to be over ASAP.

    I'd say the same general principle applies to writing.
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2014
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  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    if you want to maximize your chances of snagging an agent and a paying publisher, keep it over 80, under 100...
     
  10. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I was going to say what maia said. It's important to convince a publisher to take on your work, and having something that's too long or too short isn't going to help your chances. That's why it's important to stay within the recommended word count.
     
  11. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Definitely. But at this stage, content has to trump word count. Excise what you know in your heart needs to go and look for ways to improve depth. When you've gone as far as you can go, then worry about word count (there were times when I was writing my first draft that I actually turned word count off because I was starting to obsess about it).
     
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  12. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    I had the exact same issue when I first started using fancy word processors and had personal and external word count needs. "Oh, no, my chapter is 2000 words less than the others!" or I'd always be watching the counter go up and feel bummed out that I still go a bucketload more to write.

    Since I turned it off, writing is much more enjoyable and I advise any writer who worries about word count to just turn it off and only use the check count option when you're done and you need to know.
     
  13. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    Quit thinking like a man, longer isn't always better.
     
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  14. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Well, that lowered the level. :oops:
     
  15. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    LOLs aside, I find it very rare for writers to argue in favor of length these days. The popular opinion (now and even back in 2008 when I first joined) seems to be that shorter is better. Fewer words are preferable to more words. Shorter sentences are better than longer sentences. The more words you can cut out the better you'll be.

    Makes me wonder if the best story is the one with no words in it.

    Obviously, the answer is the one no one wants to hear: "it depends." Maybe for new writers who tend to overwrite, overdescribe, overanalyze, etc, it might make sense to urge keeping the word count lower to train them to make each word matter. But brevity and curtness are just as much a stylistic choice as any other, and in choosing them you also run the risk of resorting to summary to avoid a deep dive into a character's mind, and that's just as much of a problem. I'm currently reading Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses, and I'll say that for a guy who's celebrated for minimalism and curtness he sure knows how to write a runon sentence.

    You can also blame him for my tendency to mash words together without hyphens.
     
  16. HelloThere
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    HelloThere Contributing Member

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    Exactly, width comes into it as well
     
  17. Garball
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    Garball Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand. Supporter Contributor

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    I know it's not all about length, but how well you use your words. It's just that, well, when I look at everybody else's book, the seem a lot longer.:unsure:
     
  18. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    I actually read several people on another forum say that editors would be very scared to print a book from a first time author that is 100K words or longer. They prefer to do one that is 60K-80K.
     
  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yes!
     

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