This article in Literary Hub (well worth subscribing to their free newsletter) made me smile, as I recognised many of the feelings that the author Sloane Crosley experienced about the size of her novel.
(I love the illustration for the article—lost in a book—now there’s a bookmark)
My first novel The Perfect Murderer, written in 2014, was imperfect largely because it was double the length of what a debut work by an unknown author should be, at some 179,000 words. I did some heavy editing and removed 40,000 words. I still have faith in it and know that attempting to cut it down to 100,000 words would be as successful as cutting the neck off a giraffe to make an antelope.
Instead, I viewed it as a learning experience, and it now takes a place as the second novel in my Cornish Detective series. I wrote a prequel to The Perfect Murderer, called Who Kills A Nudist? I kept a close eye on the word count, bringing it in at an acceptable 80,000 words.
I had another feeling of recognition for the plight of author Joshua Ferris, who is interviewed by his editor in the linked article from Sloane Crosley’s.
He had similar problems with the size of his book, having to lose a vast chunk of it. Reagan Arthur, his editor, also called him to task about using the word ‘Jew’ to describe a character in one of his novels. I had similar problems writing my new first novel, as it features nudists, the gay community and BDSM, all of which have politically correct connotations that are formally given respect in the media, even if they’re poked fun at colloquially.
It’s a tricky tightrope to walk, without appearing that I’m being judgmental in any way. My characters might say things that I would never even think. It might help if I were a member of any of these groups, but I’m not (honest!). Just doing the research for these aspects of the story made my eyes water…
Some subjects are hot potatoes, which makes them hard to handle, but potentially satisfying for a hungry reader in search of something a bit spicy.