Who REALLY knows..?

by Tim


Good afternoon.

Help me wrestle this please? I'm old and have time. A few quid and fewer worries.
I was always accused of being creative.
What to do in my autumn then?
So, I wrote this book. Several actually but the first couple were rubbish.

I'm no writer but had a go.
I like it. It's a good story.

Well defined characters with arcs, a plot and a sub plot, an inciting incident, tension filled gaps, a climax and surprise ending.
Ticks most boxes.

It should be reasonably well written. I had a classical education. English literature and English language were separate subjects when I was a lad...
At my English grammar school anyway.

So what's the problem?

Well, it's around 170k words.
A dear friend, a successful published writer with movie credits, says cut it by 100k words. (Don't want to argue with her...nor take up her valuable time nor abuse our friendship using her as a jump off))
Easy for her to say though.

I've been an entrepreneur all my life - I get the economics. So much paper, got to fit in the printers boxes, space on Barnes and Nobles shelves, bla - none of which leans 'creative'.

'cos I'm a newbie 100k words max.
Kind of reduces talent to a one size fits all doesn't it?

''Mr. King, this new book of yours, it's too long''
''Really? Well, you didn't say that about Duma Key. Or any of my other 300k word potboilers. I'll have a word with my agent, get another publisher...''

Sadly I don't have that leverage.

I can get it down so far - maybe to 130k words...but...
At some point detail lost through rampant editing compromises the story. That's just common sense, right?
Are you going to tell me it can be told in less than 100k words too?

Thanks for even reading this far!


Comments for Who REALLY knows..?

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Aug 10, 2023
How much to cut
by: Audrey

Hello, Tim.

Yours is a common problem. Most of us can cut at least some our words, and usually the result is a much better book. Cutting is one of my favourite things to do, so I am biased.

If you have already taken a book of 170,000 to 130,000, you clearly know how to do this work. Without seeing your book, I can't say whether you have removed all you should. I can only say that the stage of writing you are in now is much like sculpting in stone. All of the stone is valuable, but much of it is more valuable when removed to reveal the work of art hiding inside the block of stone.

One word of advice, keep as much as each version as you can. This gives you multiple files, but it will save a lot of time and stress if you ever want to put something back in after cutting it.

Another rule of thumb would be to remove big chunks before fine tuning paragraphs and sentences. I often find that an early chapter can be replaced by a paragraph or two. Reworking the whole chapter in such a case is a waste of time.

The length of a book is about the length of a string: each is different. There are averages. You can beat the odds with a truly wonderful piece of work. A warning: you get to submit a book to a publisher only once. The acquisitions editors are not going to read multiple versions.

I do offer edits that focus on the overall story. I can't say here whether you have already removed enough or even whether you have a viable story. I can encourage you to keep working on your project until you know there is no other improvement to be made.

All the best as you continue writing.

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This is Jack Popjes and one of his published books. He and I worked on multiple projects. He's  met many goals.

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