Reducing the Word Count

The other day I had an agent very kindly tell me the concept for my novel, The Lesser Betrayal, “is great.” However the word count (110,700 words) is too high. Debut novels are between 60k – 100k words long. If I could reduce the word count, perhaps she could take a look at it.

Undaunted, I began the task of cutting 10,700 words from my manuscript.

I knew where I could cut an immediate 4,752 words easily. I had three flash-back scenes in the story that I absolutely love. They shed light on life in Hoqra and Ashura’s relationship with her sister, Tesha. After some thought, I realized the scenes aren’t integral to the story. They’re great, but not necessary.

In fact, these scenes are perfect candidates for expansion into a short story or novella about Ashura’s life prior to the events of The Lesser Betrayal. But that’s a project for the future.

There are other ways of getting similar information across without these scenes taking up 4,752 words.

For instance, One of those flash-back scenes was 1,890 words long. The point of the scene – a discussion between Ashura and Tesha about marriage – was to show that women of Hoqra come of age at their fortieth birthday (40 segments = 18.25 Earth years). Instead of using up a whole scene for it, I reworked a sentence from a different scene. Same info, fewer words.

The rest of the word count reduction came from tightening up my writing. It came from chopping one word here, two words there, and rewriting whole paragraphs.

I can’t tell you how many times I something like, …kissed me on my forehead… or something similar. I reduced that to …kissed my forehead… and chopped two words. I alwo wrote things like, he smiled at me. Well, duh! You’re the only people there! Who else was he smiling at? I got rid of the “at me.” It’s cleaner, and conveys the same information.

The thing is, this whole process has been one huge learning experience. And I mean from very the beginning, with the first notes I wrote out for this novel back in 2004. I’ve probably made every mistake an aspiring writer can make, but I do my best to learn from those who know better, and clean up my mistakes.

I could look back at how I’ve written and think, Wow. That’s terrible style. How did I write that and not think it was horrible? But I don’t. There’s no point in getting frustrated or annoyed at my lesser-educated self. I learn, I fix the mistakes, I make my manuscript better, and I move on.

The good news: after six days of work, I reduced my count to exactly 100,000 words.


Yeah. Right on the money. Even I was surprised.

I resubmitted my query to the agent (I’m not really sure about the protocol there). Hopefully, I’ll hear back from her soon.


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