Okay, imagine a construction outfit builds a home—and then finds the drawing that shows the full basement it’s supposed to have. Or, you run what’s easily your best marathon ever—and upon crossing the finish line, learn the official clock fizzled out an hour ago. How about: you trudge ten desert miles from your out-of-gas car to a station and back—and find its headlights feebly glowing.
Even funnier: you spend six years on a novel, the last several months working with an editor, diligently proceed to a query letter review site—and learn that a 165,000 word novel is impossible to publish in this day and age.
Right. That’s me, waving my hand over here. Yeah, the one the stunned/sheepish/sad look on his face. I AM a guy. Surprise, I didn’t read the directions. Still, you might think the matter would have come up in casual conversation. At some point.
Point is, it's liposuction time. And I have no medical degree. The surgery will be a little more than cosmetic, as I need to drop it into the neighborhood of 120,000 words or so, tops (to save you the math, that’s a mere 27%).
Strategies rush to mind:
Here’s one thing I do know: I’m not the first among us to fire up the prose chainsaw. I'd like to take the safety course so I don't lose fingers, legs, schnozz, or anything else danglely. Bring on the suggestions, experience, admonitions, and derision. What I will say is that emotionally, I’m ready to dig in.
Thanks for the WOW (words of wisdom). And the other one, as in: wow, you poor darling.
None of the above. Just put on a different hat, that of seasoned, unemotional editor. Go back to the first page and reread your novel, cutting out all unnecessary dialogue, scenes, descriptions, and back story. Be serious and relentless. If you want some REALLY good advice, upload the book to Createspace and then order a proof copy, so that you will see what the printed book will actually look like, then tear the book apart (literally) chapter by chapter and take the scalpel to all of the above suggestions. You will see how quickly the chaff will fall away from the wheat, leaving a much stronger, more compelling story.
I enjoyed your post, Mark.
My once 600 page book is now around 300, thanks to
1. Letting the book sit, then going back in with some distance
2. Advice from Beta readers who are also writing professionals
3. Letting the book sit some more
4. Reading it out loud. Man, do I repeat myself. The reader probably got it the first time I said it.
5. Letting it sit even longer.
You have a funny style. How much of that is serving your characters, your plot? You may have to kill some darlings.
Thanks for the your story (of your story). As I mentioned, the book was edited; in that process, believe it or not, it actually grew. The trick is that most of it is in immediate scene, which, of course, will need to condense into narrative summary. As to the voice, I have a few, and what I used above isn't in the novel, which is done in first person. So, no dice there, unfortunately. Darlings will have to be dwarfed, not decapitated...
That's awesome you were able to create such and epic. Your best option of your list is to break your story into smaller books. That would let you keep it as whole as possible and still appeal to publishers. A completed series is like a golden egg to some publishers. If you really want to keep your epic in its entirety you could give self publishing a try.
Ah yes, the Pete Jackson approach. My editor and I discussed this, but the story's arc doesn't lend itself to this device. At all. Thanks for the suggestion though, and the compliment. It's surprising how easy it is to end up with a novel of this length, using an outline that's 120 pages long.