This is an addendum to an earlier post…

 

Okay, I thought that the fourth version of my manuscript for Alone would be enough.   Four ought to do it, right?   Um, sorry.

After I hacked off a limb, cutting somewhere around 23,000 words to get sort of close to the magic number of 90,000, I actually gave my MS to a critique reviewer–another set of eyes.  (Don’t laugh at me.  I know I’m not the brightest bulb, the sharpest knife, etc., but I’d like to think that I’m at least learning.)  After her review, my critique partner said, “There’s something missing.  There’s more to Alex than what I’m reading.  I need to learn more about him.”  She was correct.  I had cut a huge portion of the action and dialogue from the beginning of the story, so… I had to bring some back.  After pasting words back in and cutting others, I finally got to 92,500 for the fifth draft.  But I knew I had to lose another 10 pages at least.  So… another round of critique.  I sent the MS to my first partner and also added a second partner.  Both liked the story, the second partner “really liked it”, and both helped me improve the pace and remove the unnecessary parts.  So that’s where I’m at: the sixth draft version containing just under 88,000 words.

So, is that enough editing?  Obviously not for publishing.  A professional will have lots of ideas to clean my MS.  Can I cut more?  A lot more?  I don’t know.  I don’t think so.  (Yeah, yeah, all authors say that and they’re wrong.  I get it.)  But in order to cut another 50-100 pages, I’ll have to lose the complexity–the “perfect storm” aspect of my book.  Let me explain…

Alone is not only a story of an orphaned high school senior forced to relocate to the home of his guardians–one of whom deeply resents the guardianship, but it is also the story of Alex’s battle against cancer.  The novel cannot be one or the other.  I cannot separate the two.  Without the cancer, there is no need for any sort of parental support for Alex.  On his eighteenth birthday, Alex could tell his aunt to f&*^ off and leave.  There would not be much to that story.  Because of the cancer, he can’t easily walk out the door.  He needs the people around him to care, to help him battle the cancer.  On the other hand, if Alex’s parents were still alive when he was diagnosed with cancer, they would love him, completely support him, and care about him.  There would be no conflict–nothing to stress him out or increase his anxiety.  (Well, nothing more above and beyond the general pain-in-the-assness of having cancer.) [By the way, I am not taking cancer lightly.  But since I have defeated cancer myself, Leukemia, when I was 3 to 7 years old, I can be a little flippant.]  That story, without the added factor of being an orphan, would simply be another cancer story.  I wrote alone to not only tell the cancer story, but show how important it is to have the team of supporters and what effect it can have when there is someone close who doesn’t care.  I honestly don’t think I can cut another 15,000 to 20,000 words without decoupling the two aspects and collapsing the story.

I’m hoping that agents will not judge (and quickly reject) my query based solely on word count.  Yes, it may be a little high for the YA audience, but my story needs that many words.  At least that’s what I think.

Am I open to further editing?  Of course.  I expect to edit it more.  But at this point, I can’t see a way to lose a significant number of words without losing the story.

Stay tuned…