How to Cut Length in Your Story

Since I reopened my editing services on, I’ve been encountering authors that want me to edit novels that are between 30 and 40 chapters.  40 chapters.  For a teen fiction novel.  These authors are what I am going to discuss today, I call them “chapter happy.”

Now, chapter happy doesn’t necessarily mean that they like to have a lot of chapters (even though they usually do).  It’s more of wanting to make their books as long as possible.  This is a problem.  Here are some general word counts for publishing based on some research I’ve done:

Adult fiction: above 70k but less than 115k

Teen/YA Fiction: 50k to less than 100k

Now, if a book has 40 chapters at 2.5k to 4k words, this is a HUGE problem.  I’m having an issue with my longest client currently.  I have been editing her 41-chapter story for almost two years.  I am hoping that it is almost finished.

The problem is this: descriptions, plot twists, and the feeling that everything needs to be important.  And no, they can’t take out that section of description about the clothes or that page of dialogue where the two friends greet each other and talk about their weekends.  It is far too important.

So, here are a few quick tips on how to cut down length in your story to avoid the issue of it going outside the idea word count for publishing:

1. Mega Descriptions: how green a tree is in the backyard, long greetings, big conversations, and especially, the one that grinds my gear the most: lengthy descriptions of clothes.

2. Long Conversations:  Now of course, if it’s the queen telling her kingdom that she’s stepping down, Brody telling his little brother Greg that he has cancer, or Katie telling her husband that she’s been having an affair, of course give it some length.  Important scenes are well, important and deserve such attention.  If it’s two friends giggling in homeroom, it surely doesn’t need to be more than a few sentences.

3. Plot Twists: I have had such a problem with this that it’s not even funny.  Basically, if the story already has enough going on, don’t add something else. The two detectives already up to their heads in a mystery don’t have to suddenly become long lost twins, lovers, etc.

Writing with “the Trend”

Finally got some new inspiration today. The topic: book trends.

I started editing again in order to gain some new followers on Wattpad. (I’m only 33 away from the big 1K!) So this girl tells me about her story. It’s a zombie apocalypse. AKA, a topic that has been done over and over again in the past years.

With shows like The Walking Dead and movies like World War Z, zombies have been all the rage since I was a freshman in college. (2012). And I noticed that as a writer, topics change. On Wattpad, there used to be lots of zombie stories, and there probably still are. The new fad appears to be demons, for some reason.

Anyway, I fell victim of writing towards a trend in hopes of getting popular. When, back in 2012 where vampires were drawing near the end of their peak, I found out about a girl, the same age as me, who wrote a vampire novel on Wattpad, got 15 million reads, and got signed by my dream company, HarperCollins.

So I set out to write a vampire novel. I wanted to stay in the fad while still being different, so I did what I called a “reverse Twilight.” I had an evil, vicious, bloodthirsty female vampire, Taliah, and a dim-witted, but hunky, college guy named Tristan. I finished this book in April 2013, when nobody cared about vampires anymore. To this day it only has a few thousand reads. I even started a sequel (Fangs and Fortune) that got a lot of praise, but just never went back to it.

Meaning of this post: don’t write something just because you think it’s cool to write it at that time or because everyone else is. There is no chance for a novel to be published after a fad is over. Stick with timeless things, and don’t worry about these crazy fads.