Without a doubt, Kimba – our semi long-haired stray cat, was the most nervous animal I’d ever met. It had nothing to do with hot tin roofs; she just couldn’t adjust to surprises. Her earlier life was a mystery; she adopted us when she was fully grown. But it can’t have been stable. Whenever I cleaned, it was a race to get her bed back to its permanent spot by the fireplace before she noticed it missing. If she did notice, she would find me; and just stand there trembling and dropping her hair. I often wondered if there was a need for cat toupees because during the time she spent with us, she shed enough hair to clothe many bald cats. She’s passed on now and I miss her.
Earlier this week, I freaked out – just like Kimba used to do. Good thing I’ve got lots of hair. What happened? I recalculated the word count on my story. Yep – through the roof. I’d just spent a few days combing sites and advice posts on word count, and it seems I’ve disregarded yet another rule. Even with all the chopping and and more refined slicing; the word count is holding steady at about 120,000 words – up from the 115,000 with which I started the rewrite; and well beyond the 80,000 to 110,000 recommended for romantic suspense novels. Revision is supposed to reduce word count! Except that six scenes have been added – and according to my scene notes, there are several more to come. Yes, I know it’s my debut novel. Yes, I know that the larger the book, the more expensive it is to produce – and the less likely it is that I’ll be able to go the route of traditional publication.
What do I DO M-E-OW N-O-OW? The length of the story isn’t caused by excessive exposition, meandering dialog, or overly prosy scene setting. It’s all solid story. Just when I was doing a better Kimba than she ever did, I knocked over my notebook. All my stickys fell out, so I pulled myself together enough to re-assemble them. They’re the notes from the editing session I had last November, and the nostalgia for simpler days (before I fully understood the journey I was undertaking) made me take the time to read them one by one as I put them away. The one that stopped me just short of spazzing myself into a frazzle said, “Forget about word count. Just wrt the best book u can & work it out w/ editr.” Can you believe it? Wish I’d read it a few hundred hairs ago….