Writing Books/Word count


Hi Cathy! First let me say your advice is always so helpful, & you're always patient & kind.
I've been editing my novel for the past few months & probably should have done a word count much sooner. Last night when I tallied it up, I was shocked to learn I've written over 146,000 words. That doesn't include the two chapters I've deleted. So much for writer's block...I've probably written the equivalent of two novels! LOL But the reality is, I'm disappointed. I'm aware publishers generally request no more than 100,000 words, especially when it comes to new authors. Wish I had done this much sooner & learned to prioritize. Is there any possibility I could submit it at this length, or should I go through the process of cutting entire chapters & scenes I've painstakingly edited? I'm also feeling insecure that my novel won't have the same impact once I do so, but maybe that's just newbie jitters. Thanks, Cathy

Hi, Carol!

146K is pretty long. Some genres can handle that length (like fantasy) but most others should probably be 90K-100K. The reason comes down to the financial bottom line. Many publishers of paperbacks purchase their covers as pre-cut rectangles of card stock. Because they're PRE-CUT, only so many pages will fit inside once folded. If a book is amazing, an editor will agree to pay for specially sized cover stock, but it's a big chunk of the budget for a book so it has to be really incredible for a debut novel.

As far as trimming, it's not really as hard as you might imagine. Here are a few things to do that will really chop down words without affecting the actual scenes.

1.  Remove the word "that" in dialogue. Nobody actually speaks the word "that." Look at these two sentences:

"I think that we should go to the store."

It's proper grammar, but try to actually SAY it. The whole sentence sounds weird. Now, try this:

"I think we should go to the store."

It flows off the tongue much more easily.

2.  Remove every single dialogue tag unless there are three or more people present. Dialogue tags are your enemy in a tightly written novel. No "she said," "he screamed," "she whispered," etc. If you've written your scenes well, you won't need them.

There are more, but you'll be surprised how many words this deletes. Give it a try and let me know how it works. Good luck!


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Cathy Clamp


I'm happy to answer questions about any aspect of writing novels, from the beginning kernel of an idea through completion. I can help with writing a query letter and synopsis to an agent or editor. I can explain publishing terminology and acronyms. I can also assist with questions about verifying the credentials of agents/publishers and how to proceed once you've been accepted for publication. I can teach the rules of formatting a manuscript, creating viable plots, characterization and flow in the following genres: romance, science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, suspense, horror, women's fiction, mainstream and mystery.


I'm a USA Today bestselling author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance for Tor/Forge Books. Along with a co-author, I've published fifteen novels (combination of mass market and trade softcover) since 2003, and have contracts for four more books through 2011.

Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Western Outdoor Writers, Horror Writers of America.

Tor/Forge Books, Western Reflections Publishing, BenBella Books, Running Press, Wild Child Publishing. Many others.

My educational background is limited to real life experience of publishing novels commercially for the past five years.

Awards and Honors
USA Today bestseller, Waldenbooks Mass Market Paperback Top 20 bestseller, Nielsen BookScan Top 20 bestseller, RT BOOKreviews Career Achievement Award winner, 2009, Book Buyers Best Award for Paranormal, Romantic Times Best Werewolf Novel, Write Touch Readers Award, EVVY Best Historical Chronicle Award, The Lories Best Paranormal. Many others.

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