I knew it had to be done, but it’s something I put off for many months. Almost a year in fact. I wrote another novel in the interim. 

It’s not like I simply had some polishing to do, so it wasn’t like ripping off a band-aid. (Unless that band-aid was fifty feet long.) The novel I put a year of my life into had grown to 135,000 words. Or about 50,000 words too long. In some genres that’s a full-length of a novel. 

How was I going to remove 200 pages of brilliance? After all, every sentence–nay, every word–was a stroke of genius. Wasn’t it?

The good thing about stepping away from my novel for a year was exactly that. I was a year removed from what I’d written. And much to my surprise, it was not all brilliant.

So how did I kill 50,000 words?

First up (obviously) was the bloated 12,000-word section of backstory. I cut it down to 2,400 and I think it reads much better now, although I’m still glad I wrote the full 12k. It helped me flesh out some characters and understand them more.

I then cut a lot of extraneous scenes and details. It was a bloodbath. Entire tertiary characters were completely obliterated, left like bad actors on the cutting room floor. Most of this was in the first half of the book as my writing tightened further on. That was another 15,000 words or so.

The rest was simply cleaning up my writing. I deleted nearly every dialogue tag in the book. That probably knocked out a couple thousand words.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Don’t worry,” Russell said. “These words are just in the way.”

I also wiped out a lot of smiles and nods and other mannerisms that the reader doesn’t need to read. They can picture it without me forcing it down their throat. Their imaginations can add their own smirks and head tilts. If I need to state that Bill and June looked at each other and shook their heads, that means my dialogue sucks.

A slaughter of words is what my novel needed, and that’s what it got. It’s now at 87,000 words. A perfectly acceptable word count for a first novel in crime fiction.

My bursa are bubbling and burning red but I am finally finished my “final” edit.

The third draft is only 1,215 words longer than the second so I am pleased with the outcome. I managed to address a few continuity problems (always a concern when dealing with time-travel) and conducted an adverb genocide.

After the adverbs, I went on a killing spree of all the nodders. There are still a few people performing silent confirmations but they proved quite difficult to kill. (I’ll revisit them with fresh eyes once they’ve let their guard down.)

I also killed a lot of commas. Maybe too many.

We used to get along smashingly, the comma and I. I used it frequently and at times even to excess. The preceding sentence would definitely have had two commas and maybe even three if I was feeling so wild. But the comma and I had a falling out. I’m not sure when or why and I don’t care to point fingers but I’ve decided to put some distance between us.

However… it is a YA book so perhaps I’ll need to sneak a few back in to satisfy the pedantic. 

This one will be sent off to agents. Let the queries begin.

My latest short story is now available at Amazon and other online retailers.

Peepr is the hottest new online video platform. And Reywood Foster is quitting his miserable day job to become a full-time streamer. Of course, gaining followers and becoming an online sensation isn’t as easy as one, two, three.

Or is it?

When Foster initiates an open chat session for people to ask him anything, viewer Methisto makes him an offer that is impossible to turn down.

Follow the escalation in this 17k-word story, a cautionary tale for the YouTube page.

Check out The Streamer page for links an an excerpt.

The Kindle Storyteller Award 2019 is a literary prize recognising outstanding writing. It is open to writers publishing in English in any genre, who publish their work through Kindle Direct Publishing between 1st May and 31 August 2019. Readers play a significant role in selecting the winner, helped by a panel of judges including various book industry experts.

Perhaps if I was aware of this contest last year, I would have finished editing the three novels I have sitting in my drawer.

Fortunately, I’m 65% through the first major edit of my YA novel and should have it done within the next week.

Unfortunately, I’ve barely scratched the surface of the 3rd edit of my crime novel, and it requires annihilating 30,000 words.

I’ve got a third manuscript sitting at the bottom of the drawer and it’s been calling to me in recent days. I thought it wouldn’t see the light of day for years to come, but maybe I was wrong. It’s the first novel I wrote and I wrote it for myself. I don’t think it’s most people’s cup of tea, seeing as it’s more like a bad acid trip than a plot-driven novel. It’s a little fucked-up.

At least for the first two, rather than shop around my YA novel and re-shop my P.I. caper, maybe I’ll send them to the Storyteller instead.

Science Fiction Robot Lady

I’m supposed to start editing the first draft of my new YA novel today, therefore I’m writing this unnecessary post in reaction to an article in the Guardian’s Culture section this past week. Freelance columnist Sarah Ditum askswhy are authors still sniffy about sci-fi?

The catalyst for the piece seems to be Ian McEwan’s refusal to accept that his new novel, Machines Like Me, is science fiction. It’s an alternate history story with androids (ie: it’s science fiction). Ditum politely calls McEwan’s arrogance “a whiff of genre snobbery”.

I haven’t read a lot of science fiction, at least not of the “spaceships and laser beams” variety. It is only recently that I decided to start reading more science-fictiony science fiction, because I’ve come to view it as an extremely flexible and boundless platform in which to tell a story.

When it came to classifying some of my stories, I was hesitant to label them science fiction, but not because I felt “above” the term. Quite the opposite. I was afraid I wouldn’t live up to it, that it would be misleading. Maybe the spaceships and laser beam crowd would shoot me down.

So far, I haven’t had any complaints. People know how to read blurbs and descriptions. They can tell the difference between climate change and an alien invasion.

“There could be an opening of a mental space for novelists to explore this future,” McEwan said in a recent interview, “not in terms of travelling at 10 times the speed of light in anti-gravity boots, but in actually looking at the human dilemmas.” 

Funny, I thought that’s precisely what a lot science fiction did. Ian McEwan wants to use the genre while denying and disparaging it at the same time. He’s like one of those religious conservatives staunchly preaching anti-gay rhetoric during the day, while at night he’s sitting in a toilet stall, covertly tapping toes on the men’s room floor.

Ditum points out that masterful wordsmith Margaret Atwood has softened her position on her work being classified as science fiction. Considering Frankenstein turned 200 last year, and Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451  are required reading in classrooms throughout the world, it’s about time.

Maybe it’s even time to view science fiction as a respectable literary genre.

Base image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay