And progress progresses, if at a crawl.
The major changes pass is now complete. Good news? Well, the draft stands at 135,700 give or take a few words. That’s still a lot higher than I’d hoped for, but a good 4,300 words shorter than I thought it would be. I did take the opportunity to take out a couple of places that weren’t crucial that happened to fall in the same chapters as the major changes, so it’s not a clear sign that I controlled any additional word count, but still, it makes the next step a little more plausible :).
And just what is the next step?
Well, that would be the culling pass. The plan is to read through the whole novel, looking for any place I can remove 1, 5, or even 200 words. Honestly, at this point I don’t expect to find many big cuts, and I doubt that the little cuts will add up to the minimum 10,700 that I’d prefer to cut. Even an 125k, Shadows of the Sun will be running heavy for the industry.
That said, though I’m looking for cuts, at this point I’m not ready to manufacture them without an agent/editor’s guidance. This is a complex, layered book, and that’s not just me talking but also those who have graciously agreed to read it. I’ve been aware of this word count issue for some time and have already stripped out some of the additional information in the book that served to make the reader aware of the bigger world but wasn’t absolutely crucial to the novel. Any more pieces I find like that will be toast. But I’m not going to trim the elements that strengthen this novel, that make it the anthropological fiction I’ve always wanted to write, without someone with a heck of a lot more experience than me saying if I cut X bit, I’ll get a sale, or an equivalent statement.
The trick here is balance. There are a billion rules that authors try to follow, and as many ways that following those rules can kill the heart of the novel. Shadows has had its fair share of critiques, but in each case, I looked at what the critiquer was saying and worked toward an answer that resonated with the story. When Shadows first went over acceptable word count, I gave a close look to what wasn’t necessary, and culled where I could. And as I said above, I’m going through again with that sole purpose.
However, no one is going to buy Shadows because it meets the guidelines perfectly. No one is going to say that this story is the one because of word count, margins, font, or what have you. What will (and yeah, I believe will is the right term) sell Shadows is the depth of the story, the complexity of the conflicts, the characters themselves, and the world and multiple cultures found within. Weakening those strengths to court a word count is working against the story, and against its chances in the big wide world. Let the power of this story capture an agent’s heart first, and then the agent and I can dicker over what to cut :). But I’m not going to break what’s going for Shadows because I’m afraid of some numbers that I have to put at the top of the page. After all, who’s to say I wouldn’t end up cutting the one part that would have snagged the agent I’d prefer above all others.