Write-a-thon Week Three

The rest of the additions to the beginning of the novella are complete–I’ve added everything that might belong in the opening of the story, knowing that some of the details may turn out to be mostly for my edification and won’t end up in the final version.  I’ve also started entering the edits I’ve been doing on the original draft.

Though I do a lot of revision on the screen, at some point with every manuscript I print a hard copy and make edits in pencil as I read it through.  I was anticipating seeing the word count start to go down, but so far most of the changes have involved rewording as much as cutting.  Since I still have half a dozen pages or so to write at the end, I’m a little concerned about going over the 40,000 word limit for a novella.

From an artist’s point of view it’s frustrating that word counts have become extremely restrictive in traditional publishing venues.  Ideally, it should be a matter of using as many–or as few–words as it takes to tell the story.  But unless you’re already a well-established author, most agents and publishers won’t even look at a novel under 80,000 words, ostensibly for economic reasons.

So a story that falls between 40,000 and 80,000 is essentially in no man’s land.  It can only be marketed in the same way as a novella–that is, to small presses or e-zines that are open to all kinds of lengths, and without representation by an agent.  But of course when it comes to awards and contests, a story in that range doesn’t qualify as a novella, and is unlikely to be taken as seriously as a novel, especially if it hasn’t been published in traditional book format.  That seems odd when you think of how many great classics and best sellers fall in that range.

But at this stage I have to put that out of my mind and focus on telling the story as well as I can.  Then, later in the revision process, I’ll do what’s necessary as far as condensing or even cutting a scene or two, and hopefully be able to keep it under that 40,000 word mark without sacrificing the integrity of the story.


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