Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Written Boundaries

A little tweaked out of it. I just stumbled upon a few articles about word count. Great articles that in no way do I intend on dissing. I've taken to heart each typed word these writers have chosen to share from their collective wisdom; I advise you do the same. Click here for one by Jessica and the other here found on Literary Guide to Agents.

So, back to me: yup, I wrote it--word count. Blah... Understandably it's a necessity. The market has systematically concocted a numerical formula for what sells at what age group and what those age groups can handle reading. My problem is when it categorizes us so stringently.

Using myself as a guinea pig, yet again:

I decided about a year and a half ago to start writing. (I'd written, basically journaled, years ago but the slight interruption of giving birth four times, manning a house, and keeping the squeaky wheels oiled took up a bit of my time.) I started taking a few classes and became a member of a writer's group, mingling with like-minded people. I wrote snippets for class. End of that story.

Then I decided to start writing for real. Sat down and hammered out a 180,000 word YA crossover, fantasy romance. That's when I discovered word count. Being a newbie, I had no idea there were limitation. I figured if it was good that it would get out there. I remember when I first realized it. I thought I was going to faint; actually, nausea took me over.


But that was good. I realized just how much I over write. Good lesson. Crappy way to learn it, but good none the less.

So, I put that manuscript away, deciding to revisit it later, and moved on to my second manuscript. Much shorter: 110,000 words which I've cut down to 104,000. I'm still editing this one, while working on its sequel. Still considered long for YA but a chasm under my first attempt, and my writing is more concise. I've grown. Yay! I put it out for a few HS aged girls to read and a few adults--no relatives or close friends. I've been told it was crisp, engaging, and kept their interest the whole way through. I've even had one ask to read the sequel when I'm done, and another who wanted more details in this book; I have a few really deep characters. But because of word count, we both know I couldn't.

The other problem is I feel the market doesn't give the YA audience--which is rapidly changing--enough credit. They are more intelligent and hunger for deeper stories. Stories that allow them to relate to issues of their real lives yet give them the freedom to deal with them or think about them through the eyes of a fantasy--someone else's story.

My take on word count is that it is necessary, but just like children each story has it's own vigor, life, and threads. Some are shorter, while others take longer to smolder. Both are still good.

My hope is that I can crossover that boundary definition and make a difference. I'll start working on the MG series I'd started last summer. Make it fit between the recommended guidelines for middle grades, and write a killer query to get it published. Then I will introduce my second manuscript the way it is. Sure, an agent with fresh eyes will probably find a 'very' or 'although' to cut, but primarily it's a good story. And in my opinion, that is the most important ingredient.

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