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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

When You Realize You Goofed...

...You have to face it. It's no good trying to patch the problem up. You have to stop pushing forward, and fix the problem at its source.

That was a lesson I learned this last week. It was a suspicion I'd had for some time, but without any hard facts, I thought it was just a fear without any reason behind it. Now I know for sure: The Serenity Solution in its current form is about 79,000 words too long for any self-respecting agent to even bother looking at it.

That's right, you can write a manuscript that is just too long to be marketable, especially if you're a beginning author, like me. I realized the manuscript was a little long, but I had no idea that it was way beyond the bounds of reasonable. Then I discovered that most agents look for a new writer's book to be somewhere between 80,000 to 100,000 words long. Anything much longer than that, and they start getting nervous. Why? Well, quite simply, you have yet to prove that you can deliver. The fear is, if your book is too long, it's possible that most of it is just a bunch of fluff, and attempt to shore up a weak plot or an inability to concisely describe what's going on with the action.

To be honest, I probably suffered a bit from both of those problems in the TSS manuscript. Thankfully, the error was pointed out to me by some good folks from the Absolute Write Water Cooler (see last week's post for link), before I scared off too many agents - hopefully.

Basically, I decided that if I really wanted to get this book on the market, I was going to have to rewrite it. Not an easy decision, seeing as I have already put 2 years into this project. But it was either that, or abandon it, which was absolutely out of the question. It seemed like an overwhelming project to rewrite something which I already thought was good; however, once I sat down to study the problem objectively, I discovered I had a few advantages.
  1. The basic plot was sound. The excessive length in the manuscript was more a result of my being too ambitious in what I wanted to cover in the book, rather than a lot of fluff - although there was definitely some fluff that needs to go.
  2. I already had the setting and back story well established. All I need to do is figure out how to work it into the action of the book.
  3. Characters are already well established. I don't have to sit around and figure out how they're going to interact with each other, as that was already taken care of in the first write.
  4. Some chapters and scenes are well written. Furthermore, beta readers have told me that hook at the end of the book is very well done. Because of this, some of the rewrite will be a simple copying of the good parts and pasting them into the rewrite, then polishing them to make sure they fit well.
So, that's where I'm at right now. I've stopped sending out query letters, since the manuscript is once again "incomplete." I've trimmed down the plot, and created a new outline. New target length for words is about 99,000, though I think it's going to end up significantly shorter than that, possibly as low as 90,000 words. I'll keep you updated.


  1. Hey, linked in from AW.

    I know exactly how you feel - I did the same thing (but I had been three years (on and off) working on my MS). I found the best way to rewrite is to open a fresh document while keeping the original open beside it.
    Start writing in the new doc, only copying and pasting in those lines that really work. Doing things this way, I managed to cut / change 70% of my MS.
    One year later I'm on draft 3.2, and I think I have a much better MS than what I started with.

    Best of luck with it :)

  2. Thanks for the well wishes. I am doing much the same thing, writing in a completely new document while keeping the old one open. I've only done two chapters thus far, but I've manage to cut more than 50% from it, and I think I'm setting the plot up better as well. I'll be keeping everyone updated on the progress as I go along. I wish you success on your continued efforts with your manuscript as well!