beta readers / concise writing / length of books

An Editor’s Comments About a Extra-Long Manuscript That Needs Re-Typing

This is part 10 of my series on “An Editor’s Comments.” These are actual comments I’ve made to clients, and are directed to their particular needs, so they are sometimes quite different than what you’ll find in a style manual or other editing book. I hope you’ll find these thoughts helpful! If you want to learn more, check out the rest of the articles in the “Editor’s Comments” section and the “Various Editor’s Tips” section in my “Writing and Editing Articles” table of contents.

Thank you for your inquiry regarding possible editing of your manuscript.

Wow! A 230,00 Word Manuscript

To begin with, I’ll have to say: Wow! 230,000 word manuscript! In this day and age of novels that average around 70,000 to 80,000 words (or up to 120,000 for novels that require a lot of world-building, like fantasies and sci-fi), that’s pretty much an epic, not just a novel. May I ask some questions and make some suggestions?

Consider A Trilogy–or at Least a Sequel

Are you planning to self-publish your book, or do you plan to try to find a traditional publisher to publish it? Just a tip … you might want to consider dividing your manuscript into a trilogy (3 books) or at least into 2 books (if it’s a fantasy or sci-fi in which you’ve created a new world). It is very difficult to sell novels that are longer than that, in this day and age when most folks are in a rush and looking for a fairly quick read. On the other hand, many readers (and quite a few publishers) like “series,” so if you could divide it up, it might do better. Alternatively, if you really want to keep it as one volume, you might need to consider really cutting out a lot of  “extra” words, scenes, and so on.

Beta-Readers Could Help

Have you had anyone read through your manuscript (besides yourself)? If so, they might be able to suggest whether you should consider dividing it up or making it shorter. I would definitely suggest that you have at least 3 or 4 people (beta-readers) read the original manuscript and give you their honest input about the length–and their thoughts about what you could cut–or how you could divide it into multiple works.

Or Get Advice From an Editor

Alternatively, you might want to hire an editor to do a read-through and give you suggestions from an editor’s viewpoint (first, about the overall story and helping you deal with the issue of its length; later, after that is worked out with you, an editor could help with finer points).

And Then–About the Re-typing…

You mentioned that you are planning to hire someone to type it in Word (I’m assuming you’ve typed it with a typewriter or handwritten it? Or, if you’ve used a word processor that is incompatible with Word, you could possibly copy and paste it into a program like Notepad, and from there into Word, after which you’d need to fix the formatting; with Word’s “Styles” feature, that wouldn’t necessarily be terribly difficult. Nonetheless, hiring someone to type a novel of that length into Word sounds like a pretty time-consuming project, which means a fair amount of money.  If you first resolve the big issues (length, story structure, etc.), then it would be easier to put it into Word and prepare it for self-publishing or to present to an agent or publisher. Also, if it turned out that it would be better published in 2 or 3 volumes, then you could have each done one at a time, and spread the work out over time. If the first volume was a success, then it would be worth working on the further volumes. At least that is my suggestion.

If you are set on having it typed into Word before you do anything else with it, I would suggest you check out a service like Fiverr as they have freelancers who will do work like this for very reasonable rates (just do some serious checking to make sure you’re hiring someone who can do a good job). Another suggestion would be to check with local colleges; there are often college students who are in need of income to support their educations and might do the typing for a reasonable rate. College job boards often have people listed who do typing, as well. You could also advertise or check on online classifieds to see who is offering typing services.

More Specific Advice?

I am a professional editor and might be able to help you out with editing (depending on your novel’s genre; there are some genres, such as thrillers, which I don’t do but I could recommend other editors who work with those genres). If you’d like to send me the first chapter of your novel, I could offer you a free hour of work, in which I would do a read-through (up to an hour’s worth) and then give you more specific suggestions related to how you might want to proceed. If you’d like to do that, let me know.

Hope these suggestions help!

What Do You Think?

What advice would you give to someone who has written a very long manuscript? Please share your advice in the comments. Thank you!

 

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