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.

goodreads_review_themasq

My wrists and eyes are burning as I wrap up this final-ish edit of my novella The Humid, so I took a short break to see how my short story, The Masq, is doing on Amazon.

Not great. Not even good, actually.

But I’m neither surprised nor disappointed. It’s a short story, and the only written work by an unknown author, on a website with nearly fifty million books.

I clicked my way over to Goodreads, just to see if there had been any activity there. Two people gave it a rating, four stars and five stars. That made me grin.

But what made me smile was the review that one of them left.

Short, interesting and beautifully written.
This was much more than short story.

This was much more than a review. It made the pain in my arms secondary, and galvanized me to get this edit finished. Thank you, random guy who read my book.

There are only two periodicals where I plan to submit my novella, so perhaps The Humid will be available on Amazon fairly soon.

Perhaps conundrum is an overstatement. Especially given I know which way I’m leaning.

It’s also not a pressing concern, considering I’m only done the first draft. And I might rewrite the entire thing in first person. (At least it’s only 75k words.)

Regardless, I just finished writing a young adult (YA) novel and began pondering the case for pseudonyms. Seeing as I haven’t made any name for myself, the issue is far down my list of concerns. Somewhere just above who to include in my Edgars acceptance speech.

However, I’ve also wanted to give self-publishing a shot–both to learn the ropes and see how it goes. In that case, the question rockets to the top like the 1999 St. Louis Rams.

Stephen King wrote under the nom de plume Richard Bachman to circumvent an industry that penalized prolificacy.

J.K. Rowling stated that it was “wonderful to publish without hype or expectation, and pure pleasure to get feedback under a different name.”

Then there’s erotica. Some sources estimate that 103% of all erotica is written under a pseudonym.

Obviously I do not share the concerns of either King or Rowling. And I’m not writing erotica. But many make the argument to use a pen name when writing a different genre.

Iain Banks wrote mainstream fiction as such, then ever so sneakily wrote science fiction as Iain M. Banks. (More for clarity than obfuscation.)

John Grisham writes young adult fiction and non-legal-thrillers under one name. Many authors write in multiple genres under one name, including the aforementioned King.

The argument is often made that using a pen name allows the reader to know what they’re getting. But there’s a thing called a description. They could always read that first.

Zoom. Zip. Four months just flew by.

There was another edit, of course, and Chapter Nine is no more.

Its chewy bits remain scattered throughout the first chapter, but most of it is in the bin where it belongs. It was a massacre of darlings.

And it felt good.

But the time for feeling good is over, because I’ve decided to give Pitch Wars a shot.

What is Pitch Wars?

From some of the accounts I’ve read, Pitch Wars can be a wonderfully brutal and harrowing experience.

Excellent.

I’ve gone through the list of this year’s mentors, and there are four I’m looking at. So now it’s time for further research, planning, and plotting. And online stalking.

After 12 months, 4 beta readers, 3 drafts and 130,000 words I’m ready to share my novel with the world. Or at least a few editors. Well, hopefully some agents.

But I’m new to this and learning as I go. And as I’ve been focused on writing and eating, auditing, editing, I haven’t exactly been reading ahead. It’s like I’m driving cross-country, checking the map whenever I hit the next town.

And the town I just pulled into is called Synopsis.

This town sucks.

Evidently I’ve got to take the 130,000 words I’ve toiled on over the past year and condense them into 300. Or 400. Or, maximum 700, depending on who you ask.

It should chart the main plot, but shouldn’t outline it. It should entice the reader, but should not be marketing. It must give a feel for the book, but not mention its themes. Got it.

One of the many posts I read on The Synopsis proclaimed “it shouldn’t take long”. They were clearly talking about how many words it should be and not how long it takes to write one. Because after six hours of working on it, my synopsis is 820 words.

I know there’s only one way out of this miserable, one-horse town, and it’s straight down Compression Street.