When I started my novel, all those years ago, I thought ‘Wouldn’t it look cozy next to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy?’. Or ‘maybe I could nestle it between David Copperfield and War and Peace?’. I honestly had no idea what I was doing. This was my first mistake, a terribly aimed goal. I did not believe that my work was as good as a classic, nor should any writer. Everyone must find their own path and write what they love and know and let their book be what it is. However, I think a lot of beginner writers have a few presuppositions about big novels.
The main reason I wanted to write something long was because I thought 100,000 words was the magical number I had to see in my word count. And I did. But I did not know that Dickens was paid by the word as were most writers back then. Of course he could have tangents and funny anecdotes but that is how the publishing world worked back then. Not so today.
I recently heard an acquisition editors say that they train their slush pile surfers to toss manuscripts over 80,000 words. I am not saying this is a rule but something to think about. I realized now that 100,000 words are nice for Harry Potter, but that is not for me.
My practice now is to cut out as many words as I can to strip my story down. Chapter 1 was cut by 1000 words and chapter 2 by 500+. My goal is to create a streamlined story. One that is clear and concise and to the point. I my aim is not to get under 80,000 words just because. However, I am doing my best to kill my darlings. I hope you do as well.