Thursday, February 6, 2014

Snip, Snip

I was seriously considering entering Seven Noble Knights in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. When I first heard about the award, I regretted not having a novel to submit. Last year, Seven Noble Knights was too freshly finished. No way was it ready for submission of any kind, much less a brutal contest.

The thing was, the Amazon contest caps the allowable word count at 125,000. What kind of random number is that? Seven Noble Knights, after the significant cuts I made over the last several months, sat at 129,000.

Maybe 4000 words isn't so much in an epic novel, I thought, and started by looking for the silly things writers do. First plan for excision: most adverbs. If you modify a verb, it's often just the wrong verb to begin with! So I dove in.

It took four days of gruesome, shrieking effort.

But now at least half the adverbs I had are gone. It had to have strengthened the writing. It also got rid of one thousand words.

Three thousand words short.

So I looked at the official rules again, just to make sure, and yes, they're firm on 125,000.

What other silly rules were there? The dealbreaker for me was that if you win the prize, you can't negotiate the contract. You just have to sign over whatever rights they want for themselves. Pretty suspicious. If, on the other hand, you don't win, they may offer you a contract and you can negotiate. It just felt weird to enter a contest in which I would hope I didn't win. So after all this time thinking of the Amazon award as a possible goal or learning experience, I won't be doing it.

I'm glad those thousand words have been removed. It gave me a chance to finesse some sentences and to revisit the entire novel, seeing more clearly what its strengths are.

The picture celebrates that cutting as well as my first civilized haircut. When I first got to North Carolina, I got a haircut, and was unhappy with my hair ever after. So I was determined to have a New England haircut that solved some of the problems or at least got rid of some layers, as soon as possible. It looks similar to my profile photo again, so I think I've found the haircut I belong to as well as the place. Now I just need to find the right home for Seven Noble Knights!

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