The long and the short of it

October 6, 2014 at 1:37 pm

This week I passed the 60,000 word mark in the novel I’m writing. As it is, again, for the YA market, I can almost hear my publisher saying, ‘Between 50,000 and 70,000 words only!’ I don’t think I’m going to go beyond 70,000, but then, sometimes it’s hard to tell. All three of my other published works, all written for the YA market, came in at over 70,000, so I guess it’s not a hard and fast rule, but how long is too long? Is there such a thing?

I remember being surprised when my published told me that YA books were supposed to be under 70,000. At the time, most of the YA books I’d read were huge. But then, I was a first-time author, so the rules were different for me. It didn’t seem fair to have that limit. Although I do think a limit can be helpful for some people, even if it’s a ball park figure. When I originally handed in The Heir to my publisher it was 125,000 words long. I managed to cut it down to 75,000 or so. That was a feat, let me tell you! However, it was one that did the book a lot of good. It’s true there were a couple of things I had to cut that upset me, but most of the things I cut were not required.

Authors often seem to think that longer is better and that things should be explained over and over again to make sure our audience gets it. Sometimes I think we undervalue them. This is where a helpful, if brutal, editor can come in handy, but that process isn’t fun either.

Being an editor myself, I can see it from both sides of the fence. Yes, I hate it when an editor cuts things I don’t want cut, but I also know how it feels to be the one doing the cutting, who says, ‘You don’t need that. It’s not helping your story. Don’t be so precious about it!’ Yes, I can be tough when I’m editing, but tough love can be a good thing.

Are you a writer? Did your editor make you cut your book by more than you liked? Did they help your book or did you feel they went too far? Are you an editor? What is your pet peeve when it comes to authors? Are you a reader? Is there a writer out there who you think could do with a more brutal editor?

Let me know what you think.


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