Death of a thousand cuts

Tags: writing, editing, word count, NaNoWriMo

It's ironic that this month, while so many others are doing NaNoWriMo, I'm focusing on reducing word count, just to get down into the range that agents will feel more comfortable with. I wish I knew what exactly was a good stopping place. My book is a YA urban fantasy, and the guidelines on that are a little vague. Longer than mainstream YA, but not that much longer. And different sources disagree.

For instance, this blog stated, maybe 3-5 years ago, that 125K was the upper range for YA fantasy, but now that's been revised downward to 120K, and it has new guidance saying editors would prefer staying below 100K. Writers Digest says you can top out in the 80K range and implies a little more for fantasy/sci-fi. Whereas this blog says 50K to 150K for fantasy YA, but advises not going over 100K as a debut author.

The closest that gets me is to target 100K. When I finished my first draft, my book was 115K. After several revisions, it expanded to nearly 121K. I went through some early beta feedback the proved I needed to revise my opening chapters, and after doing this, I dropped to about 117K.

Since then it's been a slog. So on days where I've spent a decent bit of time editing, I've sometimes dropped a thousand or more words in a day. But that's a ton of little tiny edits, sometimes removing portions of dialogue that weren't as strong as I'd like, for one reason or another, etc. There's a real question in my mind how much more I will be able to cut before I get to a point that all I could find to cut would be significant character development, entire scenes, or even sub-plots that are important to me.

It is very much the "death of a thousand cuts".

One thing that occurs to me is whether I will need to take some truly interesting scenes, and cut them from complete scenes into summary scenes. If so, I wonder if there would ever be a good way for interested readers to read the complete scenes. I have some thoughts on this, ranging from "have an expanded e-book version" to "publish the complete scenes on the web" to "publish the complete scenes on the web and put links in the book itself". I wonder if publishers would even consider any of these options.

I guess I'll cross that bridge when I get there.

For reference, yesterday's word count: -1300. Today's: -1700. But I'm still 11K from my target, and that's a lot of words.

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