Genre lengths are guidelines, but it’s to your advantage to try to follow them. (As always: All advice is a tool, not prescription. There are exceptions to every bit here.)

  • Publishing is a business full of risks. They aren’t going to push the envelope for a debut author. They’re already taking a risk on publishing a book with a new author. You have to earn your way, via having good sales, to pressing the envelope. This is also why it can be helpful to write solidly within your genre, and target it towards what a specific group of publishers tends to like (Especially in romance, where each publisher tends to have their guidelines known, they’re not likely to take on something that can’t follow their basic instructions.)
    • Readers have certain expectations. In category romance, especially, it needs to fit with the other books on their shelves of that line. If you go too long, they might think the story’s boring. If it’s too short, they might not feel they’re getting their money’s worth.

      So what to do you do when your Ms is too long? Judicious cutting.

      • Reoutline with your ending in mind. Every scene should add to your character growth, plot tension, and world building. Make sure they do. Any scenes that don’t, either fix that, or cut them. Every single scene we see SHOULD be essential to the one before it and the one after it. We want the highlights reel. The beginning and middle most often have this problem, so go through and make sure you’re not starting too early. Eliminate flashbacks and trim any place you over describe.
      • Do you have more than 2 points of view? Consider cutting them down. Make sure that nothing repeats, and that they’re really needed. You need to know whose story it is, and the reader needs to be able to follow that.

What to do when your MS is too short?

  • Look at your pacing. Is it too fast? Add more description, carefully, and if it’s first person, show your characters’ thoughts more at key points.
  • If your pacing is fine, consider if you need to add a subplot or a more complex plot. Nothing should come easy to your characters. If they just swipe the keys from the guard and walk out of the prison, that’s too easy, there’s not enough tension. Always be thinking, what is the worst thing that could happen at this moment to the character that will progress the story? Not every story has enough meat to it to be a novel. You might have a short story or novella on hand instead.
  • Look at your character arc. I’ll go over this more in detail next week, but you need space to develop your characters and their relationships, so having their arc and growth is absolutely key.

Next week- Character Arcs!