I have to agree with you. While mid-grades are getting
longer, thanks to Rowling, even published authors have
to justify length over the usual for the publisher. I've
heard 50,000 is about tops for a YA, and around 30,000
for a mid-grade.
I second Margot's advice, but I also have something to
mentioned how many characters you had that all seemed
to want to have their say. One thing you might do is sit
down and figure out just how crucial each character is
to the overall story. If they aren't utterly necessary,
then see if you can combine their purposes and function
and eliminate a lot of them from the story. This serves
two purposes - one, it gives the reader fewer names and
faces to keep track of - always a good thing - and two,
it can cut quite a lot out of the book - you can eliminate
the description, the completely unecessary dialogue -
or combine and condense it with the other characters you've
decided are expendable.
feel too bad, Diana - I had to cut from 100,000 to 26,000
words in my first novel, thanks to a wonky word counter
on my word processing program. It got stuck at 30,000
and wouldn't admit there were more words in the document.
When I figured it out, I despaired of being able to cut
that much - but I managed and I had a much tighter and
faster moving story when I had done. I wish I could follow
it up and say it got accepted, but it's still languishing
in my trunk, waiting for a major rewrite on some very
shaky plot issues.
other thing is to look at every scene and ask yourself
"how does this move the story forward? How does it
advance the journey of the hero to the resolution of the
conflict/problem/trip he or she is on." If it doesn't,
then look at how it builds character, raises tension and
develops subplot. If it doesn't do that, then the scene
isn't functioning, and it should come out. If it does
one of those other
things, but doens't move the story forward, see if you
can combine it with another scene that advances the plot.
That also will cut your word count, raise the tension
in the story, and keep the reader turning pages.
good hint for other stories - scenes that do multiple
things, advance the story, build character and complicate
relationships, work much better than a scene that does
only one thing.
Yes she was an unknown when the books started, but face
it - most of us don't write that quality of stuff for
our first novel. And it wasn't easy for her, either -
it was rejected by a number of houses at least partly
on the basis of length.
not to disparage Diana's hard work, but most first novels
are much too long - and this is true whether you're talking
picture book or YA. It's one of the hallmarks of a beginning
writer, becuase they haven't learned what to leave out
it's not unfair - Rowling has paid her dues and proven
herself. Unpublished writers haven't. What's unfair about
problem is that Rowling is exceptional and 90% of us aren't
going to be up there where she is, so there's no point
in saying that if Rowling did it, the rest of us can too.
Longer mid-grades are becoming the norm, thanks in part
to her, but the fact of the matter is that you and I and
Diana will never have the influence on the industry that
she does, because our work isn't going to catch the public
imagination the way hers did. So for everyone to assume
that because Rowling did it, they can too, right out of
the gate, is unrealistic and unfair to a beginning writer.
part, Karen Syed wrote:
Rowling and Paolini have changed things, but it is unfair
to say that Rowling can get away with this because she
is Rowling. She was a virtual nobody when she submitted
that first book. The key isn't so much the length as it
is the content and the quality. You can get a 90,000 word
book published for this age group, but it is going to
have little to do with the length, and way more to do
with how well it is written, your style, and the cohesive
nature of the story.
Karen is right. I was a little facetious when I intimated
that only Rowlings could get away with 90,000 words or
more. What I should have written, was that your 90,000
words need to be involved with a plot and characters that
are tight and terrific, and tell a story that is gripping
and wonderful to read. I think we will all agree that
it takes great writing talent to keep kid-readers interested
for 90,000 words.
course, there are authors out there who can and DO write
stories far longer than the norm, AND have them accepted.
However, there are a huge number of writers whose 90,000
words stories are 50% waffle. And as a lot of you know,
"Waffles are for breakfast, not for books!"
This is not to say that the ideas behind these plots and
characters are not great: they probably are. And perhaps,
if they prune out the excess wordage and side tracks,
the main focus will then shine on the plot and the characters,
delivering a shorter read that is more likely to hook
one rule is not in question - whatever the word count,
only the right bait will hook an editor!
issue is not about how long a book is, but what is making
it long. A book can be long, but it can contain a lot
of excellent lean material; i.e. important material that
somehow progresses or enhances the plot or the characters.
This is very rare. Most of what makes a book long is fatty
extraneous author indulgences; i.e., stuff that is pure
author ego-isms, pure Clancy-isms, and pure boring to
everyone else. I've found a good litmus test as to whether
the material in my book is fatty or lean - cut it out.
If a month later I don't realize it's gone, it was probably
just an ego-ism.
My first YA book started at 75,000 words fully edited.
At the time I couldn't think of a thing more that could
be cut out. Five years later, after I'd written several
more books, and I went back and cut it down to 47,000
words. Only by growing as a writer was I able to have
the blinders taken off regarding excessive words in my
first YA book. Less is more. Keep it simple. Say what
you mean. Get right to the point. And avoid making your
book a chore to your readers.