Slash and burn …

It’s been a while since I stopped by; sorry about that.

Anyway, the book goes well. I’ve had some feedback from three editors, all of whom said much the same thing:

  1. It’s a great book, Dom – really, really great.
  2. It’s a long book, Dom – my God is it long!

I suspected the first point, and I was pretty sure of the second: the characterisations are working well, the dual story line was pacey and well-timed – and the whole piece weighed in at 200,000 words. That is a lot of words for any book, especially a piece of LGBT erotica.

As you’d expect, the web has varying opinions on ideal book length, which led me to believe that there is really no such thing; however, there are some pretty strong indicators that publishers aren’t too fond of books that go beyond 180,000 words (that’s just for sci-fi and fantasy). It’s not just a question of maintaining the reader’s interest; there is also the cost involved in producing longer length works: editing, copy-editing, printing, getting it reviewed. That adds up and makes the book expensive or the margins shallow.
And the same applies if I head down the self-publishing route: CreateSpace gets more expensive as the page count rises.
Now, all this sounds as if I’m about to sacrifice the book on the editing altar, just to get it down to an acceptable word count.

Not so.

As a writer, I aim to tell a great story in as few words as possible, because if I don’t then I’m just padding for the sake of it. Fortunately, there are always a stock set of areas where words can be cut and which will actually make the whole piece read more smoothly.

  • Dialogue – ask yourself, does Stephanie really need to say that? Isn’t it implied by the way she’s sitting, or the way her hands are shaking? Needless dialogue is a great way to pad a book, so cut it.
  • Wordy exposition – sometimes you find your characters gliding effortlessly towards the exit of McDonalds with the grace and fluidity of a prima ballerina. You know what? She could … just leave!
  • Pointless segues – it’s all very nice drifting off into the dreamy world inside your protogonist’s head, but that uses up a lot of the reader’s time and doesn’t often move the story forward. It also breaks the ‘show not tell’ rule that folk like to bang on about.
  • Er … tell, don’t show – yes, I know what everyone says, but sometimes it’s just quicker to tell someone that the phone is ringing, instead of inventing some clever device to show that something is happening in the office that takes Steve’s attention away from the pouting lips and smooth ankles of the devastatingly attractive widow sitting across from him smoking a cigarette and showing no regard for the fact that smoking in a public office has been illegal for quite some time. Just say the damn phone rang! What happens after Steve picks up the phone is the important detail.
  • Repetition – read through the passage and always be ready to ask yourself: ‘Do I know this already?’ The chances are it has been mentioned before, or implied by something someone has said.

Where you’ll find the biggest cuts depends on the kind of writer you are. My work tends to be heavy on the dialogue, so I often find I can cut a lot of dialogue tags because it’s obvious who is speaking. In my latest piece, I’ve even cut one or two of the sex scenes. They were nice to have, but they didn’t tell you anything about the characters involved and didn’t move the story forward.

So, words cut so far: 12,000.

Now I take a break for a week or so, and go again 🙂

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