Leave a comment

Friday Fable: The Writer and the 138,000 word manuscript

skittlesYou may know the old story, The Boy and the Nuts:

A child visiting a wealthy home was pleased to find on the table a jar full of nuts and figs. (This was in the days before Skittles, keep in mind.) He plunged his greedy little hand into the sweet jar and took all that his fist could hold. But alas, when he tried to pull his goodies out, the neck of the jar was too small for his full hand to fit. (Much like Pooh-bear with the belly full of honey trying to leave Rabbit’s house. But not as cute.)

The boy cried out when his knuckles scraped and banged against the jar. He was loathe to give up a single goody. Finally, the wealthy home-owner came to his aid. She smiled condescendingly and said, “Grasp at but half, child, and you will have it. But grasp at all, my dear, and you will lose all.”

At this, no doubt, the boy cried again. Then he let half his candy fall and pulled out his hand.

And the moral is: Less is more.

That is a good old tale. But if Aesop were a modern slave to the written word, he might have called his fable, The Writer and the 138,000-word Manuscript:

A writer working on a teen novel in three narrative voices was pleased to find her muse visiting on a regular basis. To get just the right voice (times three), she wrote each narrator completely separately, writing out the full story one narrator at a time and paying no attention to the word count. She tapped her greedy little fingers on her keyboard day after day and wrote up as many scenes as her typing speed allowed. (80 wpm when her arthritis wasn’t acting up.)

But alas, when she put the three narrators together into alternating chapters and tallied up her tale, she had a draft manuscript that was, oh, 138,000 words long. (And that’s rounding down.)

The writer cried when half-inch margins and an 8-point font failed to create the illusion of a shorter book. She double-checked her publisher’s guidelines, which requested manuscripts for YA novels up to, oh, 60,000 words. She read over the draft and cut bits and pieces as she went, reducing the word count by, oh, a couple thousand words. If she tried really hard at line-by-line editing, she could reduce the beast to maybe 120,000.

Not good.

Finally, her inner editor came to her aid. “No one in their right mind wants to read a 138,000-word book,” she scolded herself. “This story doesn’t merit more than 80,000 words and if you can’t tell it in that amount, then you’re telling it wrong.” (Or maybe 85,000. It is three narrators, after all.) “Cut almost half your chapters, girl, and you will have a great book. Keep them all and you’ll have a lousy one.”

At that, the writer cried again.

And then she set to work revising.

And that’s my Friday fable.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

I am Buddy

It's a dogs life

Roxie Munro

Children's books, kid's apps...

The Wilden Marsh Blog

A blog about Wilden Marsh. Nature Reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest

golnaranart.wordpress.com/

Original New Stories about Musical Notations by "Golnaran", The musical cube maker

Jan L. Coates - "What if...?"

life as a kids' writer

TurtleAndRobot.com

Children's Book Reviews

Gotta Find a Home

Conversations with Street People

booktrailers4kidsandYA

This site is about encouraging reading throughout the school years. By watching book trailers it is hoped that you will be inspired to read the book.

(Lost in) Believing in Books

A Young Adult & New Adult Book Blog

The Sweet Sixteens

2016 Young Adult and Middle Grade Debut Authors

Young Adult Book Madness

YA & NA Book Reviews

YA Book Reviews

Reviews for Young Adults or just Adults.

2015 YA & MG Debut Authors

Leaping to your bookshelves in 2015!

Mindy Hardwick's Blog

Author Mindy Hardwick Muses about Writing

YA Crush

Pass a note to your favorite YA book

AUTHOR ALLSORTS

A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.

The Whole Megillah

The Writer's Resource for Jewish-themed Story: Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry

Cheryl Willis Hudson's Blog

Children's Book Author/Editor/Publisher

PASS IT ON

the networking e-zine for children's writers & illustrators

Julia Lee Author

A blog about reading and writing children's books

Tracey Baptiste

author/editor/teacher

Random Acts of Reading

reviews, raves and a random assortment of book buzz

Children's Literature Crossroads

children's literature meets teaching, reading, talking, writing, and thinking

Books Around The Table

A potluck of ideas from five children's book authors and illustrators

Chapter Book Chat

A Writer Reviews Chapter Books, by Marty Mokler Banks

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

booksellersnz.wordpress.com/

Booksellers New Zealand's blog

Flowering Minds

Children's Book Review Site

Lauri Fortino's Frog On A (B)log

Sharing and Celebrating Picture Books Since 2009

Bobs Books Blog

Childrens and Young Adult Book Reviews by Bob Docherty

Pretty Books

Fiction, Young Adult and Children's Books & Reviews

1001 Children's Books

I must read before I grow up (too much)

Writing and Illustrating

Sharing Information About Writing and Illustrating for Children

Lucybird's Book Blog

Book reviews and discussion

%d bloggers like this: