Wednesday, July 1, 2009

31,466 Words

31,466 Words! Let me spell it out for you: Thirty-one thousand four hundred and sixty-six words. This is the number of words I must omit from Margarita Nights if I wish to submit the manuscript in its true brilliance. Yes, a daunting task, to say the least.

Now, as most aspiring writers know, there are words counts to conform to when submitting a manuscript. Rather than go into excruciating detail on that subject, I'm just going to direct you to Michelle's blog post here. So, according to these guidelines, a novel can be anywhere from 50,000 to 110,000 words. Great. Fantastic. Frak - I'm at 141,466 words with the total package that is Margarita Nights. Frak, Frak, and Frak again!

Okay, this isn't as bad as it sounds. Basically, the manuscript was written in two parts. Part One equals out to approximately 72,000 words. Not a bad thing. I can deal with that! Oh wait, most adult manuscripts are expected to be 80,000 words. Frak, Frak, and Frak again! I'm 8,000 words short of expectations. Oh, yes, there are exceptions to every rule. 72,000 really isn't that bad.

So, what's my dilemma? Well, I'll tell you - I like Margarita Nights at the 140,000 plus word level. I like Part One and Part Two as one book and not two separate books, which is entirely doable, btw! I'm just torn on whether to go for submitting just Part One or whether I should edit out 31,466 words and submit the total, unbelievable brilliant, package.

Do I spend the next few weeks editing out words, paring down to insane brilliance, and maintaining the snark? Do I continue to query the 72,000 Part One and hope that an agent likes it enough to consider Part Two as well? Do I query Part One while revising the total package? Do I just jump off the cliff and end my misery? Kidding!

What do you (not you, dear friend, I know what you think), fellow bloggers, think I should do? Do I go with my instinct and revise the 141,466 down to a marketable 110,000 words? Do I market just Part One and hope for a chance for Part Two? Do I market Part One and then blindside the agent with the fact that Part Two is a cohesive part (ha!) of Part One and can she/he sell it as such?

Ah, yes, that glass of wine is beckoning to me suddenly. Who needs to revise when he can imbibe instead? Oh, wait, I can multi-task!



Angie Ledbetter said...

Wouldn't be a dilemma for me. Cut that sucker in half and have two books. Dontcha think an agent would love that?!

Tess said...


that word just makes me laugh :D

My advice? go with your gut. Can you pare it down some, but not take out all 31k? Is there a happy medium in there somewhere?

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

No fraking, please! Okay, I am not an expert, but I have two suggestions.
1) Do one of those word searches for "that" "just" etc. and see how many of those filler-type words can be eliminated.
2) Look for scenes that don't truly move the story forward--even if you love them so much it hurts. Take them out. You can save them somewhere in case things should change.
Since I haven't read your manuscript, I don't know if you have already done the above, so discard my advice if you have.
Good luck!

Davin Malasarn said...

I'd save a draft of the original and then give the cutting a try. Your number sounds familiar because that's about how much I cut out of a draft of my novel, not because of word constraints, but because I had overwritten some stuff. Try it out, see if you still like it. You may like it more.

I wouldn't break it up into two parts if you feel strongly about it. That, for me, feels anticlimactic.

Good luck!

Rebecca Knight said...

Haha, I love that kind of "multi-tasking" ;).

Great advice from Tricia above if you haven't gone there already.

My first instinct is to say that if you have 140k of anything, there is probably room for some shrinkage.

Are there any scenes you can take out and save for another story? Any that stand alone and might make a good short story to promote the book with? Any unnecessary (although awesome) dialogue that doesn't move the action forward?

If you can't beef up part 1 to be 80k, then I'd say your best bet is trimming some off the top of the whole. It sounds like it should be one book, and will be AWESOME when all is said and done :).

Scott said...

Tricia - thanks for the advice. I know what I'll be doing tonight . . .

Tess - my gut truly is telling me to sell it as one book. Maybe I can get it down to 120K words and not totally scare off any potential agents! : )

Davin - I always save a draft and then rename the file I'm working on, e.g. MN - Rough, MN - 1st, etc. So, more work to do since I really, really feel the book is best as a whole and not broken into two parts. The word count thingy just threw me for a loop!!

Rebecca - initially I wrote Part I as a book, and then decided there was more story to tell, so I wrote Part II. At some point, I decided to combine the two parts. It just made sense. I guess I'll be trimming here, there, and everywhere over the next few weeks. : )

Angie - I like your attitude! Still, I think I must go with my instinct on this one. It's not like I don't have other manuscripts to WOW my potential agent after he/she is stunned by the brilliance of MN.

Lastly - isn't it kind of sad that I've abbreviated the book to MN??? : )

Thanks for all your comments and help. I truly, truly appreciate it!


Robyn said...

I agree with Tess,Davin, and Tricia. A combination of those things. But like Davin said, keep that original. Do you have those awful was, it and the yuck type words that sound so very weak? Take them out. I did that and you wouldn't believe the difference.

BTW, I love your voice. In your query can you use it more? You my friend are on your way to victory!

Do you need an agent fairy too? :)

beth said...

My personal opinion? Cut. Most stuff works better when you cut. Typically, I write around 70k words per novel (I write kids lit, so it's shorter). My goal, even then, is to cut out at least 5k. My current YA is 85k long, and as soon as I finished and looked at the final word count, I set a goal to cut 10k. The thing is, *anything* can be tighter writing. 30k words is a lot more in comparison to my cutting structure, but I guarantee you can get the story across with less words. Also: consider cutting swaths--i.e. cut scenes and combine chapter, don't trim down each chapter.

Marybeth Poppins said...

I say cut...and give me a few of those words for my novel ;)

Scott said...

Marybeth - I'll send you all my excess words. Hope they'll help!

Robyn - thanks. An agent fairy would be nice. ; ) I'm going to take the suggestions, toss them up in the air . . . kidding. There's some work to be done, not much, and all will work out as the Fates allow!

Beth - combining chapters won't work, since each chapter is a specific month as the story takes place over a two year period. There are probably sections in each chapter that can be condensed. I also have lyrics in the story, so I can eliminate those, except in one instance. Yeah, I know, have to get permission and all that jazz, but in the one instance the lyrics are necessary. In other instances, I'll just have to mention the songs. Dang permissions!

Thanks to everyone for their comments/help! I really appreciate it!