Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Holy First Novels Batman!

My crit partners and I met at Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction graduate program. We started our degrees at the same time, each working to write our first novel in the SF (speculative fiction) genre. For me, I was writing my baby. Telling this story was the reason I became a writer in the first place. I had written a romance novel first as a warm-up because I didn’t want to be learning the craft while trying to write my masterpiece at the same time, so this was actually my second novel.
We had grand ideas and even grander ways to say them. Our ideas were so big, so broad, so amazing that we had to give full voice to them! (or so we thought) For me, this was before I learned the difference between a first draft and a full second draft. Before I learned how to take time away from the manuscript and come back with a scalpel to cut the fat away. I’m not saying that my critique partners’ novels needed that treatment, but mine certainly did.
We were comparing word counts on our masterpieces and I got a huge chuckle out of the ridiculousness of it all.
To put it in perspective:
·         Jen’s current (almost sold) YA fantasy novel is ideal for the genre at 88,000 words
·         I don’t have the final count on Diana’s The Drift (present-day sci-fi) but I think it got published at about 100,00 words
·         Empress Ascendant is considered a little long at 118,000 words
Here’s the totals on our first attempts:
·         Diana – 158,400 words
·         Jen – 169,000 words
·         And the winner for the ridiculous prize is…me, at 184,700 words.
Holy crap.
After I spent time away from the ms and learned how to really self-edit, I trimmed it all the way down to a respectable 117,000 words. But still. 185,000 words to begin with? Wow. Just…wow.
I believe I still hold the record for longest thesis published by Seton Hill. A dubious honor indeed.


  1. My first novel was an insane 250,000 words. Of course, I was in middle school at the time and had no idea what I was doing.

  2. We should get you a trophy or something! However, I'm betting I win for longest second draft of the thesis novel. There's no way I'm cutting out as much as you did! :)

  3. Tonya, that totally takes the cake. WOW

    Jen -- It took many, many editing attempts to get it down that far, and to this day I'm convinced I went a little overboard in the beginning 75 pages on that last editing pass.

  4. Awesome job on your novel. That lengthy first draft and all those edits were well worth it!