Word Count (Writing Tip #50)

Don't let word count define your novel.

Now, before I get myself in trouble, let me say this: if you sign a contract to do a novel that is 75,000 words, you should try and write a novel around 75,000 words. You need to honor your commitment, and you don't want to jeopordize your relationship with your publisher.

In the past, my editors and publishers have been somewhat flexible with the word count. A few times I've gone over, and a few times I've gone under.

I think it's easier to widdle down a manuscript than to beef it up. Even though I feel like I can sometimes be repetitive (my editors work hard to cut out the flab), I don't think I'm overly wordy. But sometimes I'm overly ambitious, and the novel needs to be compressed a bit.

Right now I'm working on a novel that's already at 80,000 words. That's around the length it's supposed to be when I hand it in. There's still a good chunk of story to go. Yet I'm not worried. I don't feel the need to break the momentum and the style and pacing all to get the word count. No. I'm going to keep going as I also ween and cut at the same time.

The reality is this: if the story is that great, the publisher will be fine to print it at the word count you hand in.

The reality is also this: there is always going to be lots more work to go after handing it in.

My goal is to write the story I need to write, then take a hatchet to it before handing it in. Not a blind hatchet, but a sharp one. During the edits, I'm sure it will be tightened as well.

For those interested, the story is about a man who is told he's going to die on his upcoming birthday. There's the premise. But as always, there's quite a bit more to the story.

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