Saturday, November 01, 2014

It's Still Too Long

"All the words I use in my stories can be found in the dictionary—it’s just a matter of arranging them into the right sentences." - Somerset Maugham

Shortly before Ed and I moved to New Mexico, a friend gave me a going away present. It was a tiny dictionary. In the front she wrote, "So you'll never be at a loss for words."

Right now I have the opposite problem. After I completed another pass through the ginormous manuscript about running my first marathon, the word count stands at 114,400. This is down from 190,000 words, but still.

Last night when I couldn't sleep I pulled up memoir after memoir on amazon.com and looked at the page count. Multiplying by the approximately 250 words per page confirmed my fears. The word count of book after book totaled something close to 80,000 words, 34,000 fewer than my current manuscript.

I have options. I could turn the story into two books. I could ignore editorial wisdom and let the book stand at nearly one and a half times the conventional word count of most memoirs. I could pay someone else to figure out what to do. I could put it in a drawer and start something new. Or I could do the thing I most dread: cut more words.

You know what I'll choose. Wish me luck! And if you have any tips for whacking still more of my precious prose from this document, please send them my way.

4 comments:

Nancy Godfrey said...

How about this: allow someone you trust, but who does not know you well and therefore is not invested in any particular event in your memoir, to read it and say "Ummm, not so much interested in this story." Perhaps that is a paradox "someone you trust but who does not know you well." Just brainstorming, here.

Nita said...

Excellent idea, Nancy. Now I just need a willing volunteer! And yes. There is a paradox there. Not sure I'd trust someone who does not know me well! But thanks for the idea.

Manu Bhatt said...

I could not help smile when I read you say "my precious prose." Is your prose precious or the ultimate product that you are trying to achieve? If it is the product, you must edit and make the resulting product stronger than what it is now, one which would convey your message.

Best wishes.

Nita said...

Thanks for the reminder, Manu!