Excellent Writing Advice at Double Edge Publishing

The ever-energetic Frank Creed (of the Lost Genre Guild fame) sent me over to check out Double Edge Publishing, and I ended up finding a regular column called “Writer’s Cramps” in their Mindflights magazine.

Not only did I find some generally terrific writing advice perusing the fully four years of columns, but I also came away with my mind whirring about a writing problem I have in my first book.

What is the problem with my first book? It’s bloated at 120,000 words. A first time novelist seeking publication in the Christian market needs to be under 100,000.

And I had cut all I could (24,000 words) to get it down to 120,000—and I despaired of ever finding a way to cut it further. Or so I thought.

Here’s one snippet of the writing advice:

So I began pruning my novel. Radically. I got rid of the whole thing before the last scene of chapter nine, and worked on tucking tidbits of the backstory into the novel. No infodumping allowed.

The result is a much tighter novel that dropped about 20k words

What? The author dumped everything up to the end of chapter nine? Of course, all of that was backstory—and my novel certainly didn’t err by putting in that much backstory. After all, the writing is witty, the story fun, even ominous, and everything is needed to setup what follows.

Or is it all needed?

Hmmmm…

I have decided to give it a try. I found a key point in part one (strangely, at the end of chapter nine) and have cut EVERYTHING before it. Keeping the prologue, that still cuts 27,000 words. And now I am trying to work all that back material slowly and organically into what follows.

It just might work! If so, then I even have some wiggle room as the newly slimmed down novel sits at 95,000 words. Wow. It just might be possible!

The only problem with this approach is that I must delay my work on Book 2: Merlin’s Shadow. Ah well, this is the time to fix book 1 if there is a way.

Anyway, Double Edge Publishing puts out some great Webzines you should check out:

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4 thoughts on “Excellent Writing Advice at Double Edge Publishing

  • Does that include first-time novelists in the Christian market that are writing Christian fantasy? Is the fantasy genre included there? Normally, fantasies have to be much longer to establish a new world and the boundaries of that world that 100,000 does seem really tight.

  • Steve,

    Unfortunately, the general answer is yes for first time novelists. Once you are a proven seller in the marketplace, a publisher will be less worried about losing money.

    I e-mailed Steve Laube on this question (and he would know), and the answer I received was:

    High end would be 120,000 words. But many publishers would flinch at that number.

    Better to max at 110,000. Best to target 100,000.

    So you *can* go higher than 100,000, but the higher you go, the more difficult the sell, the more likely an agent or publisher won’t even look at your proposal.

    I had the same thoughts you did at first, which is why I originally overwrote at 154,000 words. I cut it down to 120,000, but that “flinch” word is still there.

    The larger Christian publishers are much more conscious of the cost of the book printing, and so they unfortunately apply this rule to fantasy as well.

    I wish it were different!

    What I don’t know is how the smaller presses think, such as Enclave Publishing. That would be a good question for Jeff Gerke!

  • Like you, I’ve heard the same thing, that for first-time novelists, the shorter the better. I’ll have to go back and recount the words in my novel. I had to trim it down a lot from the second to third draft. I think mine used to be somewhere around 150,000 as well. Now, it may be between 110 – 120k. I cut out about 150 pages, or approximately 45,000 words. 100 – 110k is definitely a tough mark for writing fantasy.

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