It’s difficult to cut words from a novel.

I wrote those words. It felt right to write them.

But I have 196,000 words in my first novel, and all the experts say that unless you plan on writing an epic your first time out, cut it back to 110,000.

And the literary agents are advising that you have to be years established to write an epic!

So I sat down on Friday night and read through my words.

At first it was simply, “How can I find less words to say this?”

Then I spotted a “Nods her head” sentence. it didn’t literally say that, but it was clearly a case of peppering the soup pot – when your sentence is done, the soup is done. No need to add pepper to it.

It’s tough. I went through probably 12 scenes and was able to cut about 120 words.

Unfortunately, so much of what I wrote – even in my early days of deciding to write a novel – was so minimal, sparse, to the point – it’s hard to find too many cases of “peppering the soup” or “Nods her head” kind of sentences.

My goal is to get all this in the hands of a literary agent – at least the first three novels – by April, so I’ve got a lot to cut. I was tempted to just cut the first 85,000 words of my novel, but that would leave me halfway through the action and no set up.

You can pretty much see from my blogging, I’m often very to the point. Find 85 words in this blog post that I can cut without the blog post making little sense.

I was tempted to take much of my first novel and simply split it in two. One novel with setup, the other with action. But if you do that, you don’t get either sold. The publisher is looking for a story that makes sense and is a good exciting read, something where you put the book down and say, “Wow, that was fun!”

A book with no setup gets rejected. It’s why so many movies end up with someone arriving in the airport – you’re reassuring everyone that “no, you haven’t missed something.”

It may literally take an agent to sit down and red line a ton of stuff. My only question to him or her will be – “Does the novel make sense without it?” And then, “does the book demand the reader’s attention?” If the answers are no and yes, it may well have to get published at 196,000 words!

Your novel should be like this blog post – enough words to know what’s going on. If you don’t have a million things to write about in your book, then you should be able to stay in target. If not… you’re either too flowery, adding too much, peppering the pot, or like me you’ve got a million plot points.