Monday, August 13, 2018

My next seminar at #WDC

Last Friday I spent the day with new writers at #WDC18. At the end of my workshops I was able to meet one-on-one with quite a few people who had questions.

A nice young man in cheerful blue print shirt sat down and although I forget the question he started with, the problem was that his novel was 274,000 words. And no, it couldn't be cut. Not at all. Plus,  an editor read it, and she loved it. A lot. Not an editor from a publisher that acquired his genre (fantasy) sadly.

You know what I said: it's too long.

But but he spluttered, this editor doesn't think so! She loved it!

I explained that the reason it was too long had nothing to do with love; it was all about money. It would cost more to print a book that long, and a debut trade paperback  novel priced at $30 was a dealbreaker for most publishers who profess to want to turn a profit.

He literally could not hear what I was saying.

He said goodbye, and thank you (he was a nice guy!) and off he went.

Several more people came and went than another lovely lady sat down, and I squinted a bit; she looked familiar.  "How do we know each other?" I asked.

"I met you here last year, and you told me my novel was too long."

Now this can go one of two ways. I have been known to tell writers that if they discover my advice was wrong (usually about how to pitch something) they should email me and tell me "neener neener." After all, unchecked, I will continue to think I'm right 100% of the time.

"How long was it?" I asked, with trepidation.

"274,000 words."


"I spent the last year cutting it down to 175,000 words," she continued.  "I don't have question, I want to thank you. Telling me to cut was the best and hardest advice I got at the conference."


And of course, how I wished that Mr. BlueShirt could meet Miss Chopping Block.

But it gave me an idea I have for the next seminar: what's the most difficult advice you've ever gotten that actually helped you? And how long did it take for you to realize it was actually good advice.

Tales from the trenches!

Feel free to chime in with comments!


Sarah said...

"I know she's the main character, but I really don't care what happens to her."

A critique partner based the comment on the first 3-4 chapters of my WIP told me that a few weeks after I'd joined the group. It was my first real critique group, but I knew the protocol: listen, don't argue, at least consider what you've been told.

I was very proud that I did all that, despite the clearly misguided advice.

I also carried on an inner monologue about how this character is an introvert, and quiet, and how not every character has to have her hair on fire to be interesting. My MC is worried about this and wanting that and . . . just you WAIT till the end of the story!

A while later, I realized that I hadn't put any of that worry and wanting on the page and that maybe it needed to be there if I wanted someone to read to the end of the book. And then, I had the realization that if the reader doesn't know something, it's still my fault. I don't get to sit beside them while they read the book and correct them when they misunderstand something. It's my job to make sure that doesn't happen in the first place.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I too suffered from the too long book in my early query days. Cutting it also proved to be the best advice and resulted in requests.

However, it still was not enough to make my book shine in an over-crowded genre. The hardest thing I have ever done is shelve that book. It was not precisely that writing another book was hard. It was learning that Stephen King’s “the first million words” are all practice proved to be true.

So I wrote another book. And another. And another. Keep writing. The book I am going to query next is the best thing I have in my growing portfolio. It may or may not work for whatever the market happens to be when the query goes out.

One of the other books I wrote might be salvageable in the future. The first book I queried can be reworked later should the book I am about to query sell. A few of the things I have written should never see the light of day. Terrible but instructive.

I do believe all writers, even the most popular and brilliant, have written their share of garbage. Do not let that dissuade you from persisting in your craft.

The hardest advice was implied more than given but still tough:

1. The first million words is practice
2. If you plan to be a career author, do not get so mired down in the book you are querying that you fail to write anything else.

As our queen often advises, no matter what, keep writing.

Kristin Kisska said...

I received feedback from an agent after a full request that one of my two POVs wasn't pulling its weight. The comment stung as I considered it the X-factor that made my MS unique. I thought the agent was dead-wrong, but for some reason, the critique never let go of me. Eventually, after quite a bit of soul-searching and re-plotting, I rewrote the novel without that POV (among other changes). Big improvement. Huge.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Most difficult advice? How about painful and embarrassing.
Years ago, on one particular day, while reading a post on a well-know-agent’s website, (not here), I had one of those magical moments when the well-known-agent wrote exactly what pertained to my WIP at the time. I was convinced well-known-agent cosmically wanted/needed/could not live without my project.
As if writing a lifelong buddy about the crap in my attic I knew he’d want because he’s into yard-sales, I wrote a quick letter about my amazing book which, on that day, seemed to be greasing those ‘60’s tumblers that have a habit of falling into place when all else fails.
It took me weeks to recover from the lambasting directed my way because I assumed, regarding our long term on-line relationship, I could be anything less than professional and shuffled to the head of the line.
Moral of the story: Always and forever be professional.
My face is still red.

Mister Furkles said...

One agent, formerly an editor, said the problem with huge novels is the publisher must pay for editing. A second problem is returns. If your name is James Clavell or James Michener, it won't matter. But even these two had shorter first efforts.

Novels are not a fine art. They are more like architecture: a practical art. It's nice of it's pretty but somebody must live in it, so cost is important.

Brenda said...

Most of my lessons have been instantaneous, akin to being smacked between the eyes with a twenty-pound sledge, but two have taken years to put into practice. I question whether I’ve been successful with them, even now.

Lovely similes and metaphors.
I will never be accused of writing high-brow literature but I do love the pretty words. Patrick McManus writes about being complimented on a poetic turn of phrase and his vow to never repeat the error. I knew right away what he meant but it is so hard to put into practice. Pretty words are an iridescent beam of sunlight piercing the fog of my soul. Gag me.

I can’t remember where I read that the story reigns supreme but it took me an entire manuscript to let the story speak, and another entire manuscript to surrender my agenda. In the third manuscript I sorta-kinda-mighta stayed in the shadows. In my newest WIP I seem to have abandoned my soapbox entirely.

I don’t know that I will ever master these failings to my satisfaction.

Sam Mills said...

I'm a devoted fantasy reader and that word count gave me the vapors.

I can't think of a specific moment of painfully accurate advice, but after spending ages 16-22ish convinced I was ready to be published, the realization suddenly coalesced that I was nowhere NEAR ready, and I've spent the intervening decade studying/writing/editing my way into what I (hope?pray?beg?) is a higher level.

Kregger said...

The best advice I received was from the QOTKU herself. It went something like this: Thud...250K is way too long for a debut author. Form rejection (but you knew that). Start again.

Sound familiar?

Enter the Way-Back machine to 2009 Query #127. I had only heard of queries a week before and of course, I shot my first mess (not even a hot mess) to the Shark. I don't think she had attained royalty at that point yet.

She meant if I can put words to her thoughts, start the query over. I made another novice mistake at that point and sent her a revision within days. Well...that didn't work out for the best. I don't believe I sent her another revision for at least three years.

From the simple advice of "start again" I began my journey of not only how to write a query (which still hasn't worked) but how to write more effectively.

Right after that, I encountered a critter at Absolute Write who wasn't nearly as gentle as our Queen. After a particularly honest critique, I sat and stared at a dark monitor, trying to decide if this writing thing was for me. It wasn't an easy decision, but I had to crawl under my desk to plug in the wires I ripped out after reading the critique.

These two women are the reason why I sit here practically every morning with Word and Grammarly, wondering why.

And God help us if we ever meet (because hangovers last longer at our ages than those silly young people).

And like I said all those years ago, I promise not to call or stop by...ever.

I'll email first.


Sherry Howard said...

what's the most difficult advice you've ever gotten that actually helped you?

Hang in there through rejection. Keep writing the next book.

That’s hard advice to get. Because some times you want to give up, not the writing, but the trying to get published part. But, I have found, along with others in this group, that the more you listen, study, and learn, the better your next book will be. So, eventually you’ll write THE book. So, hang in there. Keep writing. But also listen, study, and learn!

Unknown said...

Three years ago, a top-tier agent and a well-respected editor both advised me to fictionalize my essay collection--said that although it was drop-dead funny, it would be a hard sell to publishers. The essays were too short and they needed a stronger connecting thread. I was crushed and didn't look at the manuscript for two years. (Yeah, pretty juvenile on my part.) Late last year, I re-read their suggestions and began the rewrite which, of course, works much better as fiction.

My internal whine lasted 23 months too long -- such a waste of writing time. Imagine if I'd worked as an accountant and was told my year-end financial statements didn't balance, decided, "What the heck does an auditor know?" and shoved the mess in a drawer. Yikes.

This isn't to say all feedback will work with your project but at least consider advice before stomping off to your room.

Anyhoo, good luck to all and happy writing.

Katja said...

I've been (or am) in the same boat as Mister Nice-Blue-Shirt (maybe not with such a nice shirt...) and Miss Lovely-Lady (maybe not as lovely, who knows... ;) ).

I called my book finished at 269,000 words. My first draft.
Then, a friend said "Well done. Now lean back, rest, enjoy what you've achieved for a while. And then, of course, the editing starts."

I was like "What editing??"
That was some while ago.

Someone else later told me, after I had proudly cut out an awful lot, that my book was too long at 178,000. I'd need to get it down to 110,000 MAXIMUM.
I couldn't believe it. I thought it was impossible.
It's not.

The last time I queried, I was at 118,000, and that was the word count I had put in my query.

I'm currently doing my fifth or sixth draft, am half way through and am just under 110,000, hoping to get it as close as possible to 100K.

I've not had any requests, I can't say it was due to the length or topic or writing or query. Cause, as we all know, we don't really know why we get rejected.

I'll try my luck here in the UK soon and am more hopeful than in the US, cause mental health (which is the main subject of my novel) is a quite big movement here and so I hope I have hit a timly subject.

I have had a few painful critiques. One was when I was advised to put my novel away and write something else, such as short stories, since my novel wouldn't be ready. I agree these days it wasn't ready but am glad I didn't put it away but edited it instead.

And so someone else (oh, a Reider in fact :) ) later said "You have your novel under control."

My takeaway is that even painful critiques are good and necessary but always bear in mind it's one person's opinion.

If I had been Mister Nice-Shirt, maybe I'd reacted similarly, and so I hope he'll think about, read about it and change his mind :).

Happy writing all :)!


Unknown said...

So sorry -- I wasn't trying to post as "unknown." Whiny baby = Aline Pusecker Taylor. Again, good luck to all.

Sam Mills said...

K OCD, "what editing??" gave me a laugh. I attend a monthly writing hangout which is welcoming to folks at all stages of the writing/publishing process. Very relaxed, a lot of fun. The best comment so far was during a discussion of the editing process: "Wait. I have to read it again? I don't ever want to read it, I just want to write it."

Oh if only!

Julie Weathers said...

I had three beta readers for a long time. One of them had to drop out due to life issues unfortunately. The good thing about the trio was they came at things from different angles, but two were very good line editors also.

I sent the first draft of Far Rider to B and she read it and sent me back valuable notes on various parts and then an overall assessment. While parts of it were very well done and she loved the MC, as a story it didn't work. I needed to tighten it and cut some arcs and characters.

I had no idea how to even start. I cried and I don't cry easily. It just seemed too daunting. I couldn't even think where to begin. Then one day I started rewriting. The boys in the back had been working on it while I was eating bon bons and binge watching Gordon Ramsay flay chefs in a cooking show. If I had to suffer, I wanted others to suffer also.

It was a much better story when I got done. I had to rip the story down to the bones and rewrite it. I felt like when I walk into my son's shop and he's tearing a motor apart. I have no idea how anyone can figure out where all that stuff goes. Some of those parts are so tiny and yet every single one is necessary and needs to go back just right to make the whole thing work. You can't leave out anything and you can't put in a bunch of extra stuff because blue is your favorite color and that blue part is pretty. Everything has to serve a purpose.

Thank God I have critique partners who will be brutally honest with me.

Oddly enough, B is the one with the 450,000+ novel she queried to two agents and both offered representation. I say 450,000+ because it isn't finished yet. I have no idea what the word count is now. She had a referral from a NYT best-selling author on one of the agents. I don't know where she found the other.

B is one of the first ones to point out when a scene isn't necessary or pulling its weight and I need that. I'm about 5,000 words from finishing Rain Crow. It's going to come in around 175,000 words.

Obviously, it's going to need to be pruned severely. I'll have to cut some characters and arcs and do a lot of trimming. It's not ever going to be 120,000, but I'm hoping for 135,000, which will still make some agents cringe.

Leilani said...

"Your poem is in the last quarter. Get rid of the rest."
It wasn't just the prospect of erasing all my lovely words, but also my pride at having (I thought!) finally managed to write a longer poem. Wrong. I'd written a lot of words, but he was right. The poem was the last quarter. After I cut it, it got published.

Julie Weathers said...

ETA because I don't want to rewrite the post. The massive novel B has will obviously be divided into smaller books. The agents knew that as did B.


"I know she's the main character, but I really don't care what happens to her."

That is one of the toughest criticisms a person can receive. I shared a short story with an editor friend of mine. I loved the story and he hated it. The writing was lovely, so I was surprised when he wrote back a few days later and said, "Hate to say it, J, but I couldn't stand this story."

I was shocked. "Why not?"

"The writing is lovely. I envision the author sitting in a perfect block of sunlight with a feather quill endlessly pondering each word before they put it down. It's perfection itself. I just didn't care about the character. I wanted him to hurry up and die."

I sputtered a bit, totally taken aback.

"Much prefer your writing," he said. "It's pure, no horse sh!t story."

I suppose. Now, if we can just find someone else who likes no horse sh!t stories.

“The test of any good fiction is that you should care something for the characters; the good to succeed, the bad to fail. The trouble with most fiction is that you want them all to land in hell together, as quickly as possible.”--Mark Twain

John Davis Frain said...

Do I admit to this? I'll type it and see if I hit Publish when I'm finished.

A fin-slapping NY agent once told me I was overwriting (in addition to several other egregious sins). I took all the criticism and went to work. I understood everything I was told and recognized it in much of my writing now that it was pointed out.

Except overwriting.

I had never heard the term before. How can I be a writer and not know such a basic term? I should have asked the writer-chomping NY agent, right? No question is a bad question, right? Yeah, yeah, sure.

I didn't ask her. I asked critique partners who all gave a different response. Couple other people chimed in with other answers. When did I finally learn what "overwriting" meant? About two months after I resubmitted my ms. Doh!

Happened right here on this blog. I finally understood to call the sun a "sun" instead of a "glowing gold orb" or some such.

Truman Capote explains it best: "Most writers, even the best, overwrite. I prefer to underwrite. Simple, clear as a country creek.")

If you read between the lines, Truman Capote is saying I'm one of the best writers out there. So now I have a blurb for my ms.

Colin Smith said...

Relates to the word length problem. The hardest advice I've been given, and will always be given, is advice that means I have to not press forward as quickly as I would like to.

Let me 'splain. Take querying, for example. I don't know about the rest of you, but when you're querying agents after spending months/years on your novel, it feels like you're almost *there*. That publishing dream is within reach. All it takes is one agent to say "Yes." (We know there's a lot more to the journey than this, but isn't that how it FEELS?) And then that agent replies "I love your MS!" And your heart sings. YES!! And then comes the next paragraph: "BUT..." Heart sinks. "... I wonder if it might be better if you do x, y, and z? I'd love to take a second look with these changes."

Changes. Revisions. Re-writes. You thought you were done, but now you need to go back and re-edit. You were THIS CLOSE... and now you have to spend weeks, maybe months, doing more work.

Being told you need to cut your novel in half falls into the same category, I think.

So, yeah... any advice that slows my progress is hard to take. For me, anyway. What's worse is it's usually right. :)

Mary said...

That my memoir wasn't letting people in. It was hard to drop the armor and write honestly about myself, but that's what makes a good memoir. It worked.

JKO said...

That my novel wasn't starting in the right place. I huffed and I puffed, and then I looked over the prologue (yes, a prologue!) that I'd worked feverishly on, and realized it had to go. It was a present-day framing device (the rest of the book led up to that time), so even though it gave a decent introduction to the story and MC, it effectively defused all the tension in the book because the reader knew immediately what would happen to everyone. I wrote a new first chapter, starting much closer to the inciting incident, and signed with my first agent on that revised book.

Sarah said...

Well said, Julie! I know that I confused good prose (which always came easily to me) with good storytelling. Until that comment, it never occurred to me that a few beautifully written chapters could be less than interesting!

Melissa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brenda said...

My encouragement for the day is from JD Frain. All writers overwrite. It’s good to remember we are all on similar journeys. Thanks.

Janice Grinyer said...

I was told by a well-versed Agent at a conference that my Fire proposal should have more than just sample chapters - I should write it out entirely.

At first, I was taken aback - but I understood her point. No one knows me, why should they care? I have to prove myself. Harsh. But of course being feral, I ignored her advice and started writing out sample chapters (with a full checklist of contacts, resource information, quotes etc. to back me up.) Then something clicked. I didn't stop writing after the turned into a book, which I am still working on.

What I learned -

The emotionally further you are from a topic, the better you can write subjectively. As in the old cliche "Time can heal all wounds."

What I had was closet envy, especially when news reports on fire victims who have fire support and calls to evacuate. What I would silently say to myself was "at least they had help." What a weird thing to confess to. But when I started writing on this one particular chapter, I recognized it for what it was. Bitterness.

Good writing is not vindictive.

I want to be a good writer.

So I went back to photos of the day after. And I remembered something. The sadness in the firefighter's eyes when they arrived that morning. There was nothing left for them to do but fill up water tanks with clean water for my damaged animals. They moved about silently, somber for being such young men. They kept asking if there was anything else I needed. In my pain, I couldn't see it, but in my healing, I recognized now that they were prevented from doing what they were called to do in life; fight fire to stop it from destroying. This hurt them too.

I can see that now and can write about it.

I want to be a good writer. Time will help me do this.

Kate Larkindale said...

Hardest thing I ever did was change a major plot element in one of my books. It was the thing that had drawn me to write the book in the first place, but after agents (including my own) and editors told me they didn't believe that element (even though it came from real life), I rewrote the book without it.

And the book is better for it. And published.

Amy Schaefer said...

An agent rejected a full with one main complaint: my MC wasn't driving the plot; she was just reacting to it. And once I worked through all of the "yeah, but!"s in my head, I agreed. I rewrote the MS and made it much stronger. And I've been careful to keep my characters making active choices ever since.

Timothy Lowe said...

I've committed nearly every sin there is, some of them pertaining to writing.

On the serious side, the hardest advice (and undoubtedly best) was from my agent, who wrote me a 5 page editorial letter after I signed. It would require rewriting 70% of the book. I guess it was easier to take since he'd signed me, and his comments made total sense, but thinking about the sheer scale of that revision gave me the shakes. I pushed on, and now, six months later, with the end of the second rewrite in sight, I can honestly say that the book is 1000 times better than it was.

Like Mr. Frain, I am trying not to let my words get in the way of the story. It requires constant vigilance and humility.

Take any advice you can get. It sure beats silence.

Tammy Pigott said...

My biggest critique partner, my husband ironically, has never liked the ending of my book! For years I would try to explain why a particular character had to die in a particular way… He never got on the bandwagon. The second I realized my intricately crafted conclusion wasn’t going to work had been devastating on two fronts: 1) At that point I had to go and rework the entire ending. 2) I had to admit my husband was right - again. Both hard pills to swallow.

Oh yeah, and discovering from a toothy agent that prologues aren’t as amazing as I always thought them to be. And that was after I spent a whole MONTH rewriting mine. I will admit, my *now* first chapter is so much better!

Unknown said...

I had an amazing novel drafted. Right around 60k for YA. Was gonna have a super strong ending making readers want to dive into the next book.
Universal feedback : This isn't finished.

What I thought would be an epic book two had to be cut, edited, and added into part one to make a coherent story.
Taught me a lot about how much a final version would look compared to the first.

Melissa said...

Oh the day when we brilliant writers, who always got A's and kudos throughout high school and college, realize we're not that brilliant when compared to other actual authors.

I entered my brilliant work in a first chapter contest and was shredded by the judges. Wait, I thought, I'm not as special as I think I am.

I shelved that novel because it was beyond my capability at that time. Years later at the same conference, one of the judges recognized my name and was so relieved to see I hadn't given up writing after his harsh take-down. That actually bothered me more than the initial critique. I was so awful, he remembered.

Elissa M said...


I know my book is too long (though not 274k worth). I've tried to cut it, only to have (very skilled and knowledgeable) beta readers tell me to put it back in.

The writing is tighter. The story is better. But it's still too long.

I'll let it garner rejections while I work on another, shorter novel. I know I can write a shorter one because I know why the current one is too long: more than one central character. The story I'm telling needs all the characters it currently has. I'll make sure the next story needs fewer. Far fewer.

All the advice I've gotten over the years has been helpful in one way or another, and much of it has taken time to fully digest. I can't point to a single "most difficult" thing.

Lennon Faris said...


Ten years and counting!

AJ Blythe said...

I had applied for, and successfully been selected, to attend a five-day intensive mentoring program. My mentor was a multi-published author (with +50 books out there). I'd been selected by the quality of my partial but had to submit the full for the mentor to read prior to the five day intensive.

At our first meeting to discuss her comments and to map out a direction for me to start she told me there were major problems with my internal conflict. I could try and fix and she would work with me on those changes- but her recommendation was to "throw the manuscript in the bin and start again". My choice - but I had to make it immediately as my allocated mentor time for the day was ticking.

I tossed it. My whole manuscript that I thought was pretty good (it had got me the mentorship).

Instead of fine tuning my words, my first day was spent replotting. By the end of the five days I had 3 or 4 scenes written (our goal had been to restructure with plotting and get the first chapter written and shiny). The story was much better for it. I finished writing the book and it finalled in every contest I entered but I didn't submit as I changed genres.

CynthiaMc said...

Jerry Jenkins says there is no such thing as writer's block. He points out that is an excuse that doesn't play in any other profession.

It helps keep me on track.

Anonymous said...

The OC Notary, Traveling Notary, Apostille, Live Scan, Consulate, Translation, Document, Recording & Retrieval service

We are California’s 24/7 Traveling Notary Service. We value your time! Let us save you money, gas and frustration by Traveling to you. You will see why we are the #1 Notary Service in California.

apostille, traveling notary, power of attorney, grantdeed, affidavit, mobile notary

Schedule your appointment today!

Steve Stubbs said...

Wow, I showed a friend how to take all the bloat out of his 460,000 word first novel and he ended up with a short story. It still did not sell at 5,000 words. Agents want novels instead. He still thinks he is a writer, but I dunno.

It sounds as if you had a great experience at your conference, which is great to read. Very best wishes for a great week to follow up.

KDJames said...

I'd been writing for years, lots of quasi-finished crap that I knew was crap, but was finally working on something I just *knew* was going to be amazing. Trouble was, I'd started writing this story as a romance and it was . . . insipid. So I decided to add some stuff (ie, a huge complicated political conspiracy) to make it more interesting. Great idea, right? *eyeroll*

A big name author who I respect was at that time offering paid critiques of the first however-many pages, so I sent him my pages. In the interest of brevity, let's just say there was a lot more wrong with it than I had anticipated. It was cringe-worthy. The most significant issue was, paraphrasing: "You've got this terrific high concept thriller, why are you ruining it by writing it as a romance?" Took me a long time to wrap my head around that (I was SO SURE it could be both) (it really couldn't; at least, not the way I was doing it) and start over. Lesson: When you get a fresh new idea, just freakin' start a fresh new ms.

Another bit of advice I still struggle with is that it doesn't have to be "perfect" (whatever that means), it just has to be done. Definitely still working on that.

Melissa: If a judge remembered you years later and was relieved you hadn't given up writing, it was NOT because you were "so awful." "Awful" writers are plentiful and easily dismissed. It was because he saw potential. In fact, I suspect he was more harsh with his critique precisely because he saw potential. Stop beating yourself up over what was essentially a compliment.

Unknown said...

This was practically me, except it was a bunch of editors telling me they felt more invested in the secondary characters in my story than the main one. I felt like defending her until I realized I should've been defending her IN the story, not in reality. Like you, I realized it was my fault they didn't connect with the character as much as I did.

Karen McCoy said...

Love reading all the stories. Everyone has a different journey, a unique way they develop their relationship with their writing.

The hardest lesson for me (still) is balance and pacing. A lot of my critique partners say they like my writing, but that elements introduced in the world don't logistically work and feel disjointed. I've also gotten the "I don't care about the character" feedback and I realized that I needed to start my novels a bit sooner, get readers grounded before I started bombarding my protagonist with misfortune. Also, what Colin said: Feeling very close, and then finding out you are much further away than you'd like.

But most of all, I'm still learning that ultimately, at the end of the day, it is my story--which means I have to figure out what people are really saying with their feedback. "Maybe you should start here" might also be "This beginning still works if you condense it a bit."

Ultimately, we are all, constantly, learning.

Admin said...

For more information about literature you may visit our site

Jennifer Mugrage said...

It has been hard to read these comments.

Me: I'm finished with novel! (50K words)

Beta Readers: We want more! What happened to X? What about Y?

First Agent Queried: It is way too short for the genre. Rewrite.

Me: (Rewrites) Now 113K words. Novel is much better. I was cheating before with all that "14 years later" stuff.

Publisher: Too many characters, too long, info dumps. Ought to be two novels.

Aaaand confusion reigns.

Unknown said...

In college, when I was the worlds greatest writer, I turned in a paper early to my professor for feedback. He returned it and told me to cut 25 pages. I knew he was crazy because why else would he suggest cutting even one of my golden words? But because he had the power of the grade, I struggled through and cut the pages - amazingly without losing anything important. I returned the revised copy to him, beaming with pride on how incredibly talented I was as a writer and now as an editor. He sent it back again and said, "Cut 15 more pages." After I picked myself up off the floor, ranted and raved for several minutes, and thought about calling the paramedics to take this man to the asylum, I accepted his latest challenge. I cut another 15 pages and got an A+ from a professor who rarely gave a grade above a B. But what I learned from him through all that revising was a lesson far more valuable than a 4.0 GPA.