Thursday, 4 September 2014

The tyranny of word count...

When I buy books on Amazon, one of the first things I look at, apart from the blurb and the reviews is the page count. I've come to the (not entirely correct) conclusion that a longer book takes more time to develop its characters and isn't a stroke piece.

Like most things in life, this isn't exactly true. I recently read Ella James' Red and Wolfe series, and the first book totally drew me in, even though it was only 52 pages long.

But as a writer, somewhere, along the way, I've started judging myself for not being able to authentically go over 40,000 words. Mostly, in my case, it's description that doesn't get written. You'll rarely read about what the girl or the guy wore in my books. You won't find out whether the kitchen had granite or marble countertops, you won't know what colour the drapes were (or even if there were drapes.)

What you will find is two stories - hers and his - and how they intertwine. 

Incidentally, I don't write about description because, as a reader, I don't read it. My eyes glaze past detail to hone in on dialog. I write the way I read.  


It's no secret that I've been having problems with Heiress. When I sent my first version over to my editor, he was less than enthused.

"It's a nice rom-com," he said dubiously. "It'll sell." 

"Is it good?" I asked him

And there was silence. 


"It'll sell" is not what I'm going for. I want fun. I want spark. I want memorable, and I want to fall in love with my characters.

That version clocked in at 40,000 words. I was trying to make it longer; I didn't add in description, because I just can't, but I did add in extra scenes - scenes that took away from the crispness of the story.

Suddenly, Heiress had become like a soggy dill pickle. Still good, but crisp is so much better.

We made a decision that I needed to hold off and fix it. And so, I went back to the drawing board. Again and again. And again. On the 2nd, I sent him another version. This version had a good 10,000 words stripped out. The story is tighter. It moves faster. Sure, it's shorter. But it's absolutely better.

What I learned? It's not always about word count. In fact, it probably is never about word count.

In the end, it's just about two stories - his and hers - and how they intertwine. Anything else doesn't belong. 

How's Heiress going, you ask? I'll find out by the weekend.  So far, I'm cautiously optimistic.

No comments:

Post a Comment