Writing Books/Word Count


QUESTION: Ms Balliett,

I have just finished writing my first novel (a modern fantasy genre) and I just realized I have hit the standard work count I found online. It was slightly over 200,000 words. The funny thing was I was worried the word count would be too little (I did not check online on the standard work count until I was done with it) and I was stressing most of the time how to improve my plot but now I overdid it.

I think it is probably because I use too small a font (Calibri 11), so in Words it looked short and I emphasize a lot on dialogue as I was into drama class when I was younger and dialogue play a major role in it.

Pass that, I was hoping if you have any advice for me on how to shorten it as I do not know where to begin. I have also started on a new novel (a sci-fi genre) and now that I am more word count conscious, I think I have too little of a word count an I am already in Chapter 6 with only 15,800 words (my plan was to hit 20 chapters).

I just hope you can provide me with some advice and guideline on how to save my first novel while I am in the midst of my second edit and how to prevent future word count problem.

Thank you in advance.


ANSWER: Hello Jeff.

The font for submitting a manuscript, and most manuscript standard fonts, are Times Roman Numeral- 12 pt., or Courier New- 12 pt. (Not Calibri). Most publishers have their own requirement and listed on their "Submission Guidelines" section.

To answer your question about editing and shortening the novel, you should actually take paragraph by paragraph and reword; in other words, get to the point and say it in as few words as possible.

An excellent exercise in learning and understanding this, is to practice writing Flash Fiction stories. Flash is using as minimal amount of words as possible but still completely tell/convey the whole story.

Leaving out pronouns and articles where and when is not necessary, is a great start to editing, except in dialog, and that is depending on the character. But the third person narrative should definitely be edited using as few pronouns and articles and deleting over done adjectives as can be possible, leaving words to be used well in character dialog that counts.

The editing should be: if a sentence does not "contribute" to the advancement of the story (scene, etc.) then delete it, omit it all together. It is empty wordage that can be utilized in dialog.

I hope theses ideas help.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Ms Baillett

Thanks for taking the time for answering my question and sincerely it helps me to start. I dislike the idea of writing scenes or anything over descriptive in general as I have to rack my brain on how to come up with a solid scene using the best words in my vocabulary without sounding too much like what a high school student might produce in an essay assignments. But I feel obligated to do so since some novels I read and love used this style of writing. But then again, I tend automatically omit reading anything too long for a description. So yeah, your response is definitely helpful, relatable and reassure me that I do not always need long description.

Anyway, I have one more question while I am at it. I am currently in Malaysia and coming from a country where reading is emphasize but not widely practiced by public, getting publisher to publish a fantasy/sci-fi fiction book would be a challenge (most publisher only accepts school revision books and biographies). I considered self publishing under a company that provides editing services but I am not too sure about it yet (coincidentally, the company base is near where I live). I hope you can provide me with some advice on whether I should proceed with self publishing or should I go for professional publishing instead and if so, what are the necessary steps for maximum chance of success.

Once again, thank you in advance.


Your opening statement of "writing scenes" or "descriptive" does not make sense. I am speaking about "third person narrative" writing. That is normal writing; third person has the author as narrator combined with character dialog (and there is "first person" narrative where everything is "I".)

Example of third person narrative taken from my own novel, "Leave A Whisper":

It was raining again for the third time in the past few hours and Toni didn't think it would ever stop. The rain-slicked streets mirrored the headlights of the cars that drove into the paved parking lot. She pulled into a sandwiched parking space barely big enough for her SUV but managed to leave herself enough room to open the door. She was in a hurry and didn't have time for such unnecessary inconveniences. It was already a quarter to eight and she had to deliver a speech at a charity dinner.

A woman's voice shrilled through the resounding downpour. "Toni! Toni Taft! Oh, my God-- is that really you?"

Startled, Toni dropped her purse, spilling the contents onto the wet, glassy pavement scattering them all about. Upset over another unnecessary inconvenience and getting soaked from rain, she tried fruitlessly to open her umbrella, snagging it on her coat, but it finally burst open.

She briefly glanced toward the direction of the voice and was hesitant to answer. She didn't recognize the woman and clicked the key-less remote, locking the SUV doors. Instinctively, she positioned her finger on the trigger of the small pepper-spray canister that dangled from her key-chain; a habit she'd developed for safety and had quickly become second nature to her. She'd learned many tricks in self-defense and martial arts classes that were necessary to protect herself from the dangers in her line of work.

Toni wasn't in the mood for interruptions to her tight schedule. Her clothes were drenched, her blond hair saturated with hairspray-tainted rain that trickled from her scalp and traveled down her face, creating blackened mascara-run eyes that burned. She knew she must have looked like a wet raccoon and abandoned all hope of staying dry.

Bending down and picking up a wet, jeweled-lipstick tube off the glistening pavement, she returned it to its rightful place in her purse while keeping one finger on the pepper-spray's trigger.

She looked up at the woman. "Do I know you?"

"No. But I know you-- who doesn't? You used to be in the news practically every day," the woman answered.

Toni didn't respond while searching for a dry tissue in her purse and heard the sound of the woman‘s high heels echoing a sharp, click-clacking sound on the pavement as she approached.

"I'd hoped I would eventually find you. I never dreamed I'd bump into you like this! I've tried finding your phone number and address, but its like you're non-existent. My name is Erma-- Erma Bartlow. Maybe you've heard my name before. If I could just have a-- "

"Look, I really don't have time to talk or give an autograph right now. Especially not in this rain," Toni interrupted. She didn't have patience for people who wanted psychic answers to their personal problems, financial futures, and their love lives, or crazed paranormal fans-- particularly ones that stalked her. Thinking that was the end of it, she fumbled with her umbrella and walked away. She was thankful there were other people in the parking lot and that the lot provided ample lighting.

Toni began walking toward the store, then stopped. She pivoted around and looked at the woman, and added a final footnote."I'm sorry," then continued onward to the store.

"Wait a minute, please-- just a moment of your time," the woman yelled. "Look, Ms. Taft-- I don't want your autograph. I just need to talk with you-- it's about my daughter," she plead in a higher-pitched voice. "I need answers about what happened to her. I need closure."

Something in the sound of the woman's voice induced an eerie feeling. She'd felt the same feeling before in the past when she had talked to other victims' families. Toni stopped in mid-stride and turned around, facing her. She could see the woman's eyes clearly in the parking lot's lighting. Her eyes were a crystallized blue, like ice in its metamorphosing stage from liquid to solid. There was so much pain entrenched within her eyes-- and saw that they were as pleading as the sound of her voice.

Toni broke her first rule of not trusting strangers but intuitively sensed a deep, profound pain in Ms. Bartlow. "All right," she blurted, "but not out here in this rain. We can get into my car to talk-- but only for a few minutes. That's the best I can do."

Mrs. Bartlow anxiously followed her. Her facial expression and body posture more relaxed, as if content for any small amount of time granted her.


That example is normal novel writing: third person (the author) narrative and  character dialog.

To answer your question concerning publishing:

In order to get traditional publishing (normally), the first step is to get (hire) a literary agent to represent you to the publishers interested in your genre. Most traditional publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. It does not matter where you live to hire a literary agent and to have them represent you to traditional publishers anywhere in the world: preferably the United States where the market and money is. You speak by phone and email and electronic funds, etc. and email manuscript or package it up and mail it to the agent. Traditional publishers have their own in-house editors and NEVER makes changes to the manuscript without the author's permission. All publishing transactions can be accomplished easily from Malaysia to the USA.

If you do not hire a literary agent, then POA (Print on Demand) self-publishing is your only other option. It is expensive and you must be sure their editing service does not make changes without your permission.

I have edited a published book "Tend Your Garden Within" by Shervin Hojat:






Shervin Hojat took my finished edit and self-published. I think he might be writing a scond book as we speak, unsure though.

I believe that hiring your own editor to edit your book for self-publishing (or even traditional publishing) is the only way to go and guarantee the book stays true to you, the author.

I am available if you choose to hire an editor, and can be reached at: jannieballiett@yahoo.com

My author website is: jannieballiett.net  and  my editorial webiste is at: a1editorial.net  

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Jannie Balliett


I am a published writer, Chief Editor and own A1 Editorial Service. I teach writing, specializing in novel writing, and creative writing. I can answer most any question concerning writing a book, plot and characterization, tighten the prose, and the editing process, and help advise with publishing and the requirements of obtaining a literary agent.


I'm a published writer, freelancer, and Chief Editor and own A1 Editorial Service. I teach writing for my two Online writer workshops.

Sisters In Crime Internet Chapter, The Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Brazos Writers Group.

Writers Post Journal magazine, May 2006 issue, Augusr 2006 issue, Nov/December 2006 issue and soon in 2008, On A Whim, flash fiction anthology, offered in Barnes & Nobles and Amazon.

Some college, creative writing, fiction writing

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I have numerous clients using my service through my editorial service and numerous members in my Online writer workshops.

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