I’ve been working on Sword & Illusion for a long time. I remember being at RWA Nationals in Atlanta in 2006 while my husband read the first draft. He said “Three or four hundred more pages and you’ll have it.
I thought he was joking.
Well, here it is, five years later, and the book has been “finished” for over a year. Finished means I added, cut, added some more, cut the story in HALF and tied up those ends and declared it DONE!
It ended up being about 134,000 words.
Which, as it turns out, is too long for any agent to even look at.
I sent query after query after query to agent after agent after agent, and the ones that got responses were generally form letters. No one bothered to tell me that it was too long.
I figured, you know, epic fantasy novels tend to be long. Look at Tolkien, Jordan, even Rowling. I’m not comparing myself to them except that they wrote long books and so do I.
It would have been nice if someone had just mentioned in their rejection, “Hey, I’m rejecting you not based on the story, which I won’t even read, but because it’s too stinkin’ long.”
I would have gotten that.
In March, I pitched my story to an agent face to face and I KNEW it was the length that kept her from asking even for a chapter. She said I had to cut it down to 105,000 words at most.
Okay, so here I am, over a year later, 56 pages from the end of the book and I realize I still need to cut FIFTY SIX pages (by word count). For a moment, I wondered if I could end the book right there and call it good.
I’m re-reading every sentence and trying to figure out how to cut a word here or there and I still need to cut 14,000. I’m now back to the beginning thinking about cutting whole scenes, but even then it’s 1,000 words here, 1,200 there.
I know this story is good. I KNOW it.
On the other hand, I’m editing a book for the small epublisher I work for that should never have been accepted in this form. The characters’ motivations don’t make sense, they jump to conclusions on the faintest evidence and assume everyone agrees, the heroine gets injured over and over (even getting a concussion and nearly dying) but she’s never seen a doctor. I have talked to the acquisitions editor I’m working with and I understand what happened here, but I don’t think it is fair that this book is under contract, and no one will even give my book a chance!
I dream of seeing my books on a store shelf one day, and every day that I still have to cut words is another day I won’t see that dream fulfilled.
It kinda ticks me off, but there’s nothing I can do but plod forward, praying I’m not cutting the heart out of this book.