Word count, proofreading

March 15, 2010 Writing Comments (1) 600

So I’m back at work on Volve again. I considered it finished back in September, and sent a couple of dozen queries via email and snail mail, all of which returned rejections.  Based on my experiences querying past incarnations of the work, I expected at least a few requests for partials, so my 0.00% response rate was disappointing.  I had intended to shelve the project and focus on completing the manuscript for my second (presently untitled) novel, but then I came across a number of blog posts addressing the question of word count, and realized I may have committed a cardinal sin.

All of my queries mentioned that Volve is about 130,000 words long.  At the time, I thought that was acceptable for epic fantasy – even encouraged, as readers of the genre expected a thicker “meatier” book for their money.  Not so, say several literary agents.  Fantasy does tolerate a higher word count, but not that much higher.  Anything above 120,000 words is usually an automatic rejection.

Armed with that information, I looked back at previous incarnations that generated interest.  120,000 words.  Horrors!  When I did my last rewrite, in which I changed the prologue into scattered flashbacks and moved my inciting incident into my first chapter, I apparently also bloated my manuscript up to an unpalatable length.

So I’m back at it, this same manuscript that has been on my desk for portions of the past decade, this time focused on paring it down.  My target is 115,000 words or fewer.

I spent my morning commute today doing markup on the first chapter, and wouldn’t you know I found two hideous typos hidden away like trap door spiders ON PAGE TWO.

Two dozen queries.  Two dozen agents, to whom I sent a bloated manuscript that greeted them with two mistakes in the first 500 words.  Two dozen agents I can’t solicit again merely six months later.


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