Word Count Panic

You may recall that I completed my rewrite a few weeks ago.  After letting my manuscript “rest” for a week or so, I sat down and read the whole thing out loud beginning to end, marking and commenting for future revision as I went.  I was pleased to discover how happy I was, overall, with the first draft.  I only had a few spots that needed real revision, and I did a “soft” edit of those spots once I finished reading through the whole thing.

Then I started doing a bit of research on literary agents, and guess what I discovered?

The going word count for first-time novelists is 80-100k words.

My manuscript clocks in at approximately 240k.

I’m totally panicking.

On one hand, I can understand the need for a shorter manuscript.  Publishers can sell more skinny books. I get that.  But… but…


I could theoretically break it into two books with minimal revision, but the publication of a sequel is dependent on the success of the first book.  Nothing is guaranteed.

There is always the indie book route, wherein one self-publishes with a service like CreateSpace. (I am seriously considering their copy editing service.)  But I’m a traditionalist at this point, mostly because, unfortunately, there’s a lot of self-published drivel out there.

I, by no means, think I’m the next Margaret Mitchell.  But neither do I believe my book is drivel.  I’ve read some bad self-published stuff on my Kindle Fire recently (because it was free to download, mind you, and was in a genre I generally like).  I don’t want to get lumped in and lost among the literary dregs.

So I’m panicking a little because, while I know I still need to do some more editing, I don’t see how I can cut out one hundred forty thousand words without ending up with a story that’s choppy, incoherent, and so bare bones anyone with half a literary brain would shudder over it.

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