Trimming for your genre

Dear Editor, When I completed my novel, it contained 91,000 words! After careful editing, it is down to 62,000 words—still lengthy for my genre—upper middle grade. I feel like I have trimmed the story as far as I can, but it’s my first novel and I’m worried that its length will discourage an agent or publisher from picking it up. What should I do?—Kathryn Estrada

Analyze your plot. Identify the hook, development (in plot points), faux resolution, and climax. Make sure they’re all there and in their Sunday go-to-meeting britches. Examine with a microscope the cause-&-effect that leads from hook, through development, all the way to climax. Does everything have a visible cause? Does everything have a visible effect? Does the progress of cause-&-effect form an inevitable chain dragging your characters kicking and screaming all the way from the hook to the climax? Examine the holographic structure of each of your chapters: hook, development, climax. Make sure it’s all there.

Throw out the rest.

And don’t worry too much about wordcount for your genre. In today’s climate, nobody’s getting accepted for publication, anyway, unless they’ve either got pull or have written something so utterly and thoroughly concrete and publishable the publisher would have to go out behind the barn and shoot themself if they turned it down. And when they find something that good, they’re not going to quibble over a few thousand words.

OH WAIT! You have an editor! Forget what I just said.

Ask her.

Even if I knew nothing would emerge from this book I would still write it.

—John Steinbeck, Journal of a Novel