I admit it. I’m an over-writer. I write my way into scenes and all the way back out of them, I write whole chapters that don’t need to be there. My first drafts are ridiculously long. I know this because I throw away more words than I end up with. My first edit starts with cutting off the beginning and end of each scene, leaving only the stuff that really needs to be there.
My goal is to get to the bones, and embellish only when needed. To treat the reader as intelligent and not tell them the same thing twice. And never, ever bore them.
With Saving Grace, I’ve cut to the bone and then some. Then I’ve had friends who work as editors go through it with a red pen and strike out anything that doesn’t grip them. They’ve found very little to delete. I now have a manuscript that is tight, fast-paced and focused on the action.
And yet, it’s 209,000 words.
While I’m heartened by articles that report published books are getting bigger, that many bestsellers defy word counts, the fact remains that most submission guidelines ask for standard-length novels, most of which are well under 150,000.
So what do you do when your manuscript is so big?
Break it into several smaller ones? It seems a logical solution considering its structure is in four distinct parts – until you read it. I’m open to changes. If a publisher has suggestions that won’t affect the integrity of the story, I’m all ears.
Until then, my approach is this: I believe in my manuscript.
I’ve worked hard to make it tight, polished and engrossing. I’ve cut until there’s zero fat, removing every subplot, scene and word that isn’t essential. I’ve analysed every line for self-indulgence. And I know that the story is good.
Success comes from hard work, but fate also has a role to play. If my book is destined for publication, I believe it will find its way to the right person at the right time. Of course, it takes an open-minded publisher to pick up a new author with a manuscript as big as mine, but I believe there’s one out there. Maybe they’re even wishing for a book like mine to come along. At least, I hope so!
I write for pure joy and whether I get published or not, that won’t change. But in the meantime, I will continue to believe in my manuscript and do all I can to help it find its way to the publisher who will see its potential.
I’m still working out how to ‘sell’ it to agents and publishers in my query letters, though. Any thoughts on how you’d approach it? Or if you’ve also written an epic story, how did you handle it? I’d love to hear your experiences.