My Editing Process:
A Look At How My Novels Go From Draft To Publication

Here is the June 1, 2021 update to this:
(The original article from 2018 is below this update.)

(You can see the difference in what I do now from what I did than, and it'll probably change some more if I update this again 3 years from now.)

When should I start rewriting? 

>>>When should I start rewriting? 

After you have finished your first draft.

If you start editing, revising, and rewriting BEFORE you finish the first draft, how will you know what to revise, what to rewrite, what to edit? Sure, grammar and spelling, can be fixed as you go, but when it comes to characters, plot, world building, and loss ends, you won't know which ones need work until you have finished the first draft.

If you start trying to fix things before you finish writing, you may end up creating more problems than the ones you fix. So write first and fix later after you can see the entire draft as a whole.

>>>I’m about 32,000 words (~30-40%) into my story. 

Uhm... so you are aiming at 60k to 85k words?

And you are talking about world building which means you are writing Fantasy because you don't world build in any other genre.

Which indicates that you think 50k is a novel and Fantasy is longer than normal novels, so you are aiming at 75k. I've been seeing A LOT of that the past 4 or 5 years. I hope you are planning to SELF-PUBLISH and NOT submit to a trade publishing house, because they look for around 200k for a Fantasy novel with world building.

You DO know that 50k words is NOT a novel... right? It's not even a novella, according to Harlequin who publishes short story collections that are 150k words long and contain 3 short stories that are 50k words each.

And yet, millions of wannbe, newbie writers who know nothing about the publishing industry, bounce around the internet saying stuff like:

>>>“How Long Is a Novelette? Any work of fiction with a word count between 7,500 and 19,000 is generally considered a novelette. A novelette is longer than a short story, which usually has a word range of between 1,000 and 7,500 words, and flash fiction, which is usually under 1,000 words.” (You can read the full article here.)

You know the funny thing about that is: Stephen King's shortest short story is 47,000 (forty seven thousand) words and his longest short story is 75,000 (seventy five thousand) words ... yet many people would call those numbers novels... and both those where published in magazines that had stated a short story was anything 25k to 75k, while short-shorts were listed as 10k to 25k and flash fiction listed at anything under 10,000 of course that was also in 1983 when most novels were 200k minimum Of course most of his novels top 300,000 words so, I suppose it's all a matter of perspective.

I am fascinated though by the fact that what we called a short story in the 1980s is considered a novel by today's standards. I think it's weird how everything in publishing - novels, novellas, short stories, is about 3/4 the word counts they were in the 1980s. I'm wondering what caused it? Do writers just write less so publishers changed the definitions to match or did publishing houses change the definitions first and writers wrote less to make new shorter publisher guidelines?

Bailey School Kids, easy reader chapter books for 5 to 8 years olds, are 30k words by the way, and the teeny little skinny Nancey Drew Books for 10 to 12 year olds are 75k words. While Harry Potter is 230k words. So kids books are still published by the old word counts of the 1980s... it's only stuff for adults that have deeply warped shorter numbers these days.

I think it's probably a reflection of adults reading less these days so publisher guidelines for word counts are being drastically cut down just to try to keep books marketable to people who don't read much anymore

Either way, it feels strange. Back in the 1980s I was constantly struggling to get my short stories long enough to reach the 30k to 75k that literary mags wanted, and now today, I can submit novels to publishers that are shorter than the short stories lit mags in the 1980s wanted. It feels weird looking back on that. I'm still writing stories stories in the 75k range, but in the 1970s and 1980s those were short stories, now today I still write that and they are published as novels. Weird.

Back to your question of editing though, after all, editing is what we are supposed to be talking about here.

Of course, you can't edit a novel if you don't even know what constitutes a novel, right? So knowing what word count = a novel, should be a good place to start.

Of course if you are planning to self publish, than who cares about word count, right? You can self-publish in the knowledge that you will be publishing things that are too short to be called a novel, along side around 20million other self published authors on Amazon who also had no clue 50k was NOT a novel either. So you certainly will not be alone in your ignorance.

I point all of this out, because you said this:

>>>I’m about 32,000 words (~30-40%) into my story. 

...and implied that you are writing an Epic Fantasy novel (which was confirmed by reading your profile and other posts on Reddit) and yet, you seem to be of the delusion that 75k words is a LONG or EPIC sized novel, when in fact 75k words is considered ONLY A SHORT STORY by the ACTUAL publishing industry.

Remember, any idiot can say a thing, but that doesn't make it true, so just because 20million brain dead idiots on NaNoWriMo call 50k words a novel, doesn't mean it's true, and heaven help you when you submit a short story as a novel to a publishing house that is going to laugh in your face while they toss rejection slips at you.

I'm sorry to be a barer of bad news but, if you want to PUBLISH your Epic Fantasy novel, than 32k words is closer to only 5% of the word count you should be aiming at, not 40% of it. 

You want to know how to edit your novel and you don't even know what word count publishing houses classify as a novel. I think you might have bigger things to worry about than editing, and I think your Fantasy may be a Novella not an Epic Length Novel.

Now, there is nothing wrong with writing Novella length Fantasy. There is a market for it, and in fact, that's the market personally write for. The Quaraun novels are VERY SHORT most of them only 80k to 115k words each, so classified as long novellas by most publishing houses, which is WHY I self publish the Quaraun books, because they just ain't long enough for publishing houses, who expect 150k to 300k for a Fantasy novel.

There is nothing wrong with your story being just as long or as short as it needs to be, but, from your posts, you seem to be aiming at trade publishing an Epic Fantasy and that means a publishing house like TOR and that means you should read their publishing guidelines to find out what THEY classify as an Epic Fantasy, because they want 150k to 300k PER VOLUME of a trilogy, meaning the full story you are writing should end at around 900k words. Yes, just short of a MILLION words for ONE story.

And you say this?

>>>I’m about 32,000 words (~30-40%) into my story. 

Yeah. You haven't got a clue. You might want to try READING some ACTUAL Epic Fantasy novels to find out how big those things really are.

Again, writing short Fantasy is not a bad thing, I just think you are quite a bit ignorant of which word counts = which book sizes and which genres = which word counts.

EPIC in Epic Fantasy means NUMBER OF PAGES in the book, not wizards and dragons. You seem to be confusing EPIC Fantasy with HIGH Fantasy. EPIC Fantasy means a novel with 800+ pages per volume. HIGH Fantasy means it has wizards and dragons. This is why there is also EPIC High Fantasy and EPIC Low Fantasy and EPIC Dark Fantasy and EPIC Historical Romance (aka The Fabio books) and EPIC Paranormal and EPIC Horror (think Stephen King) genres as well.

Remember EPIC means the printed paperback is 800+ pages long and if you are 40% finished at 32k words than your story isn't even close to Epic length.

And perhaps this seems off topic to a page on editing, but, part of the editing process involves editing your manuscript to be what the publisher wants and if you don't even know what word counts trade publishers expect from your genre than you are in for one hell of a surprise after you spend months of editing, only to find out no one will publish it because you seriously misjudged what wordcounts publishers look for because you believed lies taught to you by NaNoWriMo.

Moving on...

>>>The issue is that as I’ve gotten further into the book, I’ve noticed how I failed to flesh out a lot of characters and do important world-building. I’m not sure if I should keep writing or start rewriting.

The fact that you have noticed it is good.

TYPE RIGHT INTO THE DRAFT ***So I noticed I failed to flesh out this character; flesh out this character during editing*** than move on and keep on writing. 

And when you notice you've missed some world building, TYPE RIGHT INTO THE DRAFT ***So I noticed I need to add more world building details here*** than move on and keep on writing.

This is what I do.

That way I won't forget that I wanted to improve the character and I'll have a note typed right in the draft, to remind me to fix this character. At the same time, it doesn't stop me from writing. I just keep writing the story.

>>>I’ve done a rough outline and I know where the plot is going, so I’m not worried about losing myself in the editing, so to speak. It’s sort of difficult to keep writing when I keep running into issues related to earlier chapters. I feel like I’m creating more problems, but I’ve always heard that it’s best to finish before editing. Thoughts?

Yep. This is what I was talking about before, back when I said if you start trying to fix things before you finish writing, you may end up creating more problems than the ones you fix. So write first and fix later after you can see the entire draft as a whole.

Personally, I like to just rush through and finish writing down the whole thing, so that I get the entire idea down on paper before I forget it. For me, writing is like reading and I never know ahead of time where the story is going to go. I just give the characters free reign and follow them where they go.

So, yea, I finish it before I start editing it, but my 1st drafts are usually a total mess, full on shit, because I just write it out as fast as I can to get the whole thing out on the page. It generally takes me 3 to 7 days to write the first draft. I don't pay attention to grammar or spelling or logic. At this point nothing matters other than getting the full story out on the page. I can fix everything later. 

Now, this next step, I'm not sure if YOU would classify it as rewriting while writing... I do not, but I think some people might see it that way.

Anyways... here is a thing that I do WHILE WRITING the first draft...

When I write, I get into a "ZONE" a mind set where I just zone out everything around me and I get full focused on my writing, to the point that I literally can not see or hear anything going on around me. People have had to physically shake me to break me out of it so that I could see them in the room or hear them talking to me... I have Kannar's Syndrome aka ACTUAL Autism, not to be confused with Aspergers which is in no way, shape or form related to Autism. NO illness on the "Autism Spectrum" has ANY relation to Autism. The Autism Spectrum simply means "an illness that is sometimes misdiagnosed as Autism because of similar symptoms". Zoning out and becoming fully focused on what you are doing, to the point you can not see or hear anything around you is a symptom of Autism.

Well, when I write non-fiction, this zoning out doesn't happen.

Zoning out like this ONLY happens when I write fiction.

And here's the "weirder" part of it... I CAN NOT write fiction UNTIL after I have already zoned out.

This means, that before I start writing a novel, I have to meditate for several hours to trigger this state of mind to begin with. This is WHY I never know what I am going to write ahead of time.

But than, even with my 91 words per minute typing speed, at best it takes 3 or 4 or 5 or more sittings to finish the first draft.

Well, this means I need to get back into the zone before each writing session, BUT, it'll be a different novel that I write each time, and NOT a continuation of the one I started the day before.

So... to avoid starting a new 1st draft each day and instead finish the one I started yesterday, I start out day 2, day 3, etc. of writing the first draft, by reading everything I wrote so far.

Yes. I start at the beginning of the draft and read the entire manuscript, fixing grammar and spelling as I go, adding things as I think of things to add, and by the time I get to the point where I left off, I'm back in the zone and start writing again, like I had not stopped at all.

I suppose you could say it helps reimmerse me in the story?

So, that may seem like rewriting to some, but, I don't see it as rewriting. I see it as part of my personal method of how I write my first draft to completion.

In the end, this means the 1st draft will have a lot of plot holes and things not fully fleshed out or well explained, and some lose ends will not be tied up at the end either. But, I've got the whole idea down and now I can go back and flesh it out.

Usually my 1st draft ends around 50k to 80k words (I average 17k words a day; but I'm also doing this as my full time "9 to 5" job and write 8 hour work days, and have been doing this for 42 years now - I don't recommend striving towards those kinds of word counts when just starting out, build up to is slowly over time, just like you would for lifting weights in the gym).

In the 2nd draft, I read the whole thing, and as I get to points that make me think: "Wait, shouldn't this happen?" I add new scenes in those points. In places where I think characters are lacking, I add more info. In places where the world seems empty I add more life to it.  

While it took me under a week to write the 1st draft, each rewrite may take 3 months or more of 8 hours a day of doing nothing but editing and revising and rewriting. I usually end up adding 17k to 25k words to the story during each rewrite I do, but I also end up removing a lot of scenes, and saving them in a new file for maybe using later in another novel.

I repeat the whole thing again in the 3rd draft.

I often do 7+ drafts of each novel, editing out errors, fixing mistakes, added scenes, removing scenes, reordering scenes, fleshing out characters, changing up dialogue, building the world, and fixing plot holes as I go. I don't set out to do a planned amount of drafts, I just do a full rewrite and if when I'm done, if it feels like it needs more work I rewrite it again. And I just keep doing that until the story feels completed and polished as best as I can make it.

Usually my final published novel will be around 115k to 120k words, even though my 1st drafts usually ends around 50k to 80k words. 

Also, I usually put the 2nd draft away for a full year, before going back to start work on the 3rd draft. But again, I'm doing this as a full time job so I usually have 12+ novels I'm working on at any given time, so I have other drafts to work on while that one sits for a year.

This method may not work for everyone. I'm a full on pantser, so it probably won't work for people who plan ahead and outline. But for me, this is what works so this is how I do it, but yes, I finish writing the full first draft before I start editing, revising, and rewriting.

At what stage do you pull in beta readers?

>>>At what stage do you pull in beta readers?

>>>I've been working on a project for a while now and have spent some time charting the plot and getting a feel for the characters. Now I've actually started writing and working through the story, but I can't help but wonder at what point I need to start thinking about beta readers. Are beta readers only sought out after you've completed the first draft? The second? Is it ever beneficial to have a beta reader work through your draft as you draft? Do you even need a beta reader or is it possible to self-edit well enough to by pass one?

I see different people do it different ways.

I feel, if you want beta readers before the first draft is done, go ahead, just make sure they are aware they are reading a WiP. 

Do know that what Reddit users CALL a beta reader, is NOT what the actual publishing industry calls a beta reader.

Most Reddit users usually mean friends, family, and random strangers they meet in writing subreddits, when they say "beta reader". They'll read anything for free, and don't mind inkject printed stacks of loose paper or drafts in the body or an email or pdfs in an email attachment. They are not trained professionals so they WILL miss seeing most spelling errors, they WILL NOT see most grammar errors, they often have no clue what the industry standards are for word counts and genres, they rarely have any training or knowledge of character development or plot structs, so they'll they'll tell you how they fell but shrug and say they don't know what made them feel it.

Just know that ACTUAL professional beta readers, people who do this for a living an charge $40 to $60 an hour to read your books, EXPECT a proof copy of a paperback book that a mock up that looks identical to what the finished paperback will look like. They have English degrees, they know grammar rules like they were tattooed on the back of their hand. They know how to dissect and diagram a sentence - and if you don't know what sentence diagraming is - few people on Reddit do - you might want to consider if you know grammar well enough to write.

>>>I ask because recently I've been running into small issues as a write, usually concerning small details or decisions I need to make about characters which could affect how the story plays out long term. Sometimes when I have these dilemmas I write make a quick decision and move on, but other times I feel at a complete loss and have the urge to consult someone and discuss what would be best from the story. I definitely don't feel like I am at a point where I'd feel comfortable showing this work to someone else, but I'm interested in knowing how to determine the right time for this.

Take your draft, start at the first sentence, diagram it.

Move on to the next sentence: diagram it.

Continue this way, until you reach the first sentence that is written incorrectly. You will know it is incorrect, because you won't be able to diagram it. 

Pull out your English Grammar and Composition book. Look up the grammar rules about the error in your sentence. Read the entire chapter. Do all the writing exercises it says to do. Now review your sentence. Fix it. NOW diagram it.

Continue to the next sentence in your draft: diagram it.

Move on to the

 next sentence: diagram it.

Continue this way, until you reach the first sentence that is written incorrectly. You will know it is incorrect, because you won't be able to diagram it. 

Pull out your English Grammar and Composition book. Look up the grammar rules about the error in your sentence. Read the entire chapter. Do all the writing exercises it says to do. Now review your sentence. Fix it. NOW diagram it.

Continue to the next sentence in your draft: diagram it.

Move on to the next sentence: diagram it.

Continue this way, until you reach the first sentence that is written incorrectly. You will know it is incorrect, because you won't be able to diagram it. 

Pull out your English Grammar and Composition book. Look up the grammar rules about the error in your sentence. Read the entire chapter. Do all the writing exercises it says to do. Now review your sentence. Fix it. NOW diagram it.

Continue to the next sentence in your draft: diagram it.

When you reach the end of your draft... NOW read it start to finish. With all the bad grammar now removed, the plot will flow smoothly, and you'll able to see what the issues WERE (they won't be there any more) with your story and you will find writer's block melt away and your troubles writing disappear.

Bad grammar is VERY difficult to read, even for the author writing it. Authors who haven't mastered proper grammar rules, struggle deeply through writer's block and plot holes, and when you write in bad grammar, you unknowingly CAUSE your inability to think clearly about your plot.

When you go back to read what you wrote, to think of what to write next, and you can't clearly understand what you read, because your wrote it in bad grammar. But fix your own bad grammar and BOOM, it's clear to read, clear to understand, and suddenly BOOM, you know what to write next because your brain is no longer tripping on your bad grammar.

Learn how to diagram sentence, practice by diagraming 100 sentences a day (yes, I do this). It really WILL be the best thing you do to improve your writing.

Most people who can't put their finger on an issue in their story, have that problem because public schools stopped teaching sentence diagraming in 1997, something that used to be a required class. Once you learn how to diagram a sentence, words, plots, and stories start flowing very smoothly. Just as houses without foundations crumble, so too do novel plots written in improperly structured sentences. Before you pay someone to be a beta reader, ask them to diagram each of the first 100 sentences of your novel. Than heck to make sure they did it correctly. If they can't, than find another beta reader, because they don't even have knowledge of basic 4th grade grammar, if they can't diagram a sentence.

If you are having trouble with your plot and you can't put your finger on it: diagram the sentences.

>>>At what stage do you pull in beta readers?

Me? AFTER, I've done all of my drafts and edits and rewrites (there are usually 7 drafts, over a period of 3 years, for each novel) and after I do the proof copy mock up typesetting. So it has the final cover art, back blur, copyright pages, ISBN, 13 blank pages at the beginning and end, and everything all ready in it and looks EXACTLY as it'll look when it gets delivered to local bookstores. My beta readers are getting an ACTUAL paperback proof copy of the book, not a bunch of loose pages printed off an inkjet or worse the whole thing as a pdf in an email.

 I have paperback proof copies printed up, one for me, one for my editor, one for each beta reader, usually around 30 proof copies are printed. I tell the beta readers take a red sharpie pen and write EVERYTHING you think of in the margins, cross out things you don't like, correct anything you think needs correcting. Massacre it. Make it bleed read. Write whatever comes to mind right in the book, as they read it, don't want to write something later, you might forget it. Get your first reactions down as you think of them, so I can see EXACTLY where you had that reaction.

It's the very LAST step before publication. And they have 1 week to give it back to me. When I get the proof copies back, I go over each book line by line, consider their notes/advice/edits/feedback, while I have the final typeset manuscript open on the computer, and I make changes to the draft as I see fit, based off what I read in the proofs as I read the notes readers wrote in the proofs.

Within 2 or 3 days of getting their feedback back, the final typeset is delivered to the printer and the final copies of the books go to press. The book will be published and on local shop shelves within 2 weeks after the beta readers have seen it.

No one, and I mean, NO ONE, sees ANY of the drafts until less than 30 days before it is ready to go to the printer.

Here is the original article from 2018:
(You can see the difference in what I do now from what I did than, and it'll probably change some more if I update this again 3 years from now.)

>>So, I have come across many people saying things like "the first draft is total shit" or something along those lines. They say they rewrite their story multiple times until it is 'perfect'. To me, this just seems like a case of bad planning.

>>I have made a more-or-less complete outline from start to finish and am now busy writing it all out. Sometimes I expand upon a scene or add a new interaction between characters, but nothing big. It is far from being 'total shit', it just needs some careful editing here and there. So far, it seems completely unnecessary to me to create a second draft when I can just edit the bad parts out of my first one and make that into the final version.

>>Do you guys often rewrite parts or even the whole of your story? Is your first draft really that bad compared to the final product? Personally, I prefer spending a lot of time on creating a good outline instead of meticulously rewriting the same chapters over and over.

I can not speak for others as each author has their own methods, but I can tell you what I do and the hows and whys behind it.

Depending on how you look at it, you could say that each of my novels goes their 12 to 17 drafts a piece OR that it was never anything other than a first draft. Yey, how is this possible? Well, here's what I do...

An idea pops into my head, and I could be anywhere, doing anything. I have a very busy life and am often on the road or otherwise away from the computer. So, I keep a notepad (pen & paper) with me at all times, and whenever an idea pops in my head, I write it down. It may be just a one sentence idea, but in most cases it's an entire 2 or 3 page scene of dialogue between 2 characters. It could be an idea for a project I am working on already (I currently have 81 novels in various levels of completion) or an idea for a completely new novel.

When I get back to my computer, I'll create a new text file on EditPad7 and type up exactly what I had written down earlier. Depending on how much time I have at that moment, I may either just type up the exact words and save, or I may, right then and there simply keep on writing and see where the scene leads to. Often, what started as a quick 400 to 700 word jotted scene on paper, will expand to 10,000+ words within 2 or 3 hours of typing it up.

If this was a new project, this quick mind-flow hash out will serve as a shaky first draft or quasi-outline for the finished product. If it was for a project already started, I will move it to the folder, where the original project's draft is stored. Each novel has it's own folder, and the files with-in it include not only the draft itself, but also any research notes, character profiles, world building notes, rules of magic, rules of the land, random stuff written about the characters and setting that will never be included in the novel but I need to remember for how those things affect the story, links/bookmarks to sites with more research, and of course, any of these previously mentioned random brain-fart ideas that may or may not become a fleshed out part of the story.

Each of my novels, usually takes a 4 or 5 year process of starting with a random idea and then letting it slowly snowball into something bigger. And while I personally consider it to be one long process of creation, and therefor simply one draft, that eventually reaches completion, I feel that most other authors might look at what I do and translate it as many drafts being reworked and editing, a dozen or more times.

The finished product is considered (by most of my readers) to be what many have termed "avant garde" or "artsy-fartsy" and technically is classifies as Literary Fiction, because it does not stick with the norms in terms of grammar, style, and prose. In other words, a grammar nazi would have a heart attack looking at just one page and the finished novel itself would have them jumping off a cliff. I have an English degree, focused in teaching high school grammar and literature, and I can, if I wanted to, sit down and write perfect grammar and recite grammar rules for hours on end... but you wouldn't know it to look at my novels.

This deliberate lack of perfect grammar is a style choice, and one that often results in many of my books receiving bad reviews with the reader saying "this was unedited!" No. None of my books has ever gone through fewer then 12 edits and most go through 17 or more edits.

If you are finding bad spelling and poor grammar in my books, believe me, I'm well aware it's there and it's there intentionally, on purpose. The reason being that all of my books are part of a long running series about the same set of characters. The primary POV character is an unreliable narrator. An opium and LSD addict, he often does not know up from down, reality from hallucination. He contradicts himself constantly, inconsistencies are overboard, stuff he sees happening around him may in fact be only a hallucination, but he can't tell and neither can the reader, and a talking cat is following him around writing down everything he does and says. His best friend/lover is illiterate, unable to read or write, and barely has a clear grasp on the English language, English not being his native tongue; he says things wrong, often not realizing it, saying one thing when he thought he was saying something else. The cat who is writing this down does not make a distinction and does not correct him, and thus the story is written by someone who is not an person and has a lingo of her own, while she is trying to write about a mentally unstable main character and his illiterate lover.

The grammar is not only deliberately bad, it is at times horrific, to the point of leaving the reader asking: "What does this even mean?" And again, this is intentional. The finished product is intended to read as though it were written by someone on LSD. The cat is a 4th wall breaking narrator, telling the story of a drug addict from the drug addict's point of view. It is a genre known as "Psychedelic Fantasy" and while popular in the 1970s when the series started, Psychedelic Fantasy is a genre rarely seen today.

So back to the topic of the process of writing and editing...

>>So, I have come across many people saying things like "the first draft is total shit" or something along those lines. They say they rewrite their story multiple times until it is 'perfect'. To me, this just seems like a case of bad planning.

I am one who does not believe the first draft is shit theory. I believe each first draft is different, even from a single author. Some drafts will be gold bricks vomited on the page and others will be just plain vomit. It depends on many factors, including the current level of stress and health the author is in at the time of writing. The more calm and relaxed and healthy a person is, the better the chances of a clean first draft that needs only minimal spelling/grammar/typo edits, even without an outline. That same author, when dealing with stress and sickness will struggle to get their draft polished even after multiple edits and with a good outline. No author always writes pure gold and no author always writes crap. Heck, you want to see how crappy a first draft can be, try writing a story when you have the flu! LOL! :P

With this in mind, it is my belief that how many drafts a novel goes through is a reflection of many things, including, but not limited to the author's skill level, their stress levels, and their current state of health. Even just being hungry because of skipping a meal while writing, can cause a change in levels of crappiness. Some people are affected by the weather and write better on sunny days or rainy days, then vice versa.

It's been my personal experience, that the more stressed I am, the more free-flow and neurotic my writing becomes. So for me, I don't think every first draft is shitty, and I do think, that under the right conditions, most authors can put out first drafts that are near publishable with only a minor edit. A also think MOST authors seem to write when they are stressed, such as being inspired to write after a break up with a boyfriend or the death of a grandparent or being told they have cancer or struggling with depression or whatever else... high stress is often cited, by many authors, as the trigger that inspires them to write, thus it is perfectly logical and reasonable to expect the resulting draft will be rushed and shitty and need a lot of work. Many authors (myself included) write through struggles as a way to deal with stress. Whereas if that same author writes from a well planned out draft and does it on there summer vacation, in a peaceful relaxed environment, there is no reason to think they couldn't write publishable first draft that doesn't need edits.

I do however feel that every novel, no matter how good the first draft is, can be improved by simply putting it away for a few months or even a year, and then rewriting it as you read it. Because after a year, you've had time to forget what you wrote and can now read it a bit more objectively with a bit less "this is perfect" bias that you had upon writing it. I do this and am constantly taken back by the reaction of: "What the hell did I write? How did I think this was good?" Every year, my work from the previous year, seems less good then I had thought it was when I finished it.

>>I have made a more-or-less complete outline from start to finish and am now busy writing it all out. Sometimes I expand upon a scene or add a new interaction between characters, but nothing big. It is far from being 'total shit', it just needs some careful editing here and there. So far, it seems completely unnecessary to me to create a second draft when I can just edit the bad parts out of my first one and make that into the final version.

I used to outline. Decades ago. I have many massive notebooks and binders full of hand written outlines, many over 100 pages long.

I don't do outlines anymore.

I found that I would waste months on end outlining and planning and outlining and plotting and outlining and worldbuilding and outlining some more... and it was great fun to do, I loved doing it, BUT... I'd get done outlining and be: "Okay, that's done, now what can I write?"

I can make some really amazing outlines, but that in itself became the problem. I made my outlines too good, and the act of turning the outline into a novel became a chore. It took me several years to figure out what the problem was too. I'd be all excited to write this novel, I'd plot and plan and write out these massive, highly detailed outlines and then I'd be bored out of my mind when it came time to write the thing.

It turns out, I'm something called "a discovery writer". I like the thrill of discovering the story, thus why I was so excited to to the research and planning and outlining. BUT, once I know the end of the story, once I know what happened and why, suddenly the thrill of the discovery is gone and I lose interest. Thus making an outline became the very reason I struggled to finish so many novels in that time period of my life.

I stopped writing outlines and BOOM, I suddenly had no trouble writing novels again. It's weird, too, because I had it in my head that I HAD to write outlines. I thought you couldn't write a novel without an outline, so I never even tried to work without an outline before that point.

Now, instead of outlining, I just free flow it. I'm a person of extremes too. I went overboard extreme with my outlines, filling them with hundreds of pages of details, that I really had no reason to include, but I detailed out all the little pointless details anyways, just because it was fun to do. There is so much joy for me in the creation process. Well, now that I've stopped outlining (I wrote my last outline in 2006 so it's now been 12 years since I last used an outline), my drafts have improved substantially. All those details I used to put in the outlines, I now put in the drafts instead.

Usually I have no idea what the plot of the story is or where the story will go or how the story will end. You remember those random scenes I mentioned earlier? Those quick handwritten pages that I later type up and start expanding? The process goes like this:

I take this random scene idea and I start asking questions about it:

  • Why did he say this?
  • How will this other character respond when he finds out?
  • What would happen if he went forward with this but that happened to interrupt him along the way?
  • What would happen if this person disagreed?
  • What if it suddenly started raining/snowing while he was doing it?
  • What is she thought he was doing it because of this when he was really doing it because of that?
  • How would the result be different if he did it here instead of there?
  • What if while he was doing this, that happened to mess up his plan?
  • What will she say when she finds out he did that?
  • etc...

I'll write and write and write and write, maybe 1,000 or 2,000 or more words, full free flow with no clue what direction it'll take. When I get to the end of the scene, I'll go back and read it, while tossing questions like the ones above at it. Next thing I know, I'll be writing the next scene. The question will have inspired me to toss another person or item or event into the end of that first scene, and I'll write it out to see where it goes. I'll write and write and write until I reach the result of that change. Then I'll start throwing around some more "What ifs?" Wat if it started snowing? So I'l write it snowing and see how the characters react. Wait, what if it had rained instead? I'll go back to where it started snowing, write a new version of that scene now with rain and see where it goes. Then I'll look at both scenes and determine which one better fit the way the story was going. I'll use one and save the other as an indea file to maybe be used in something else later.

I think of it as though I was reading a book. When I read a book, I'm on the edge of my seat wanting to know what happens next, so I keep turning the page and reading more to find out.

I write like that. I don't know what's going to happen next. It's the thrill of discovery, to write a scene and not know where it'll lead. I'm on the edge of my seat while I'm writing wondering: What's gonna happen next?

This is the same experience I felt while writing my outlines, but then after I finished the outline, it was like I had finished reading the book, so had no more desire to go back into it, thus I wouldn't write it.

But now without an outline, I get the novel written in a few days because I'm so excited to discover what is going to happen.

>>Do you guys often rewrite parts or even the whole of your story? Is your first draft really that bad compared to the final product? Personally, I prefer spending a lot of time on creating a good outline instead of meticulously rewriting the same chapters over and over.

You'll often hear me talk about revising and rewriting, but I think, what I call rewriting, may not be what most others would consider rewriting? Not sure. It seems to me, when I see people saying they are rewriting, that they are actively writing their story over again, and for me, that's not what I do.

When I revise a novel, it' not so much me writing it over, as it is me continuing to snowball ideas at the story.

After I finish writing a novel, I like to put it away for 6 months minimum, before going back to edit it. These first drafts are usually very short only 70k to 80k words, barely the size of the finished novel it'll become when published, with most novels of the series being 140k to 200k words and some reaching over 300k. I'll immediately move on to my next novel. As it takes me about 2 to 3 weeks to write a "first draft", I'll have written 5 to 8 more novels by the time I go back 6 months later to edit that first one. I've now had time to forget a lot of what I wrote in this particular novel.

Now it comes time to "re-write" the novel. My process is this:

I read the novel, and as I read it, I'm now thinking of the additional 6 or 7 new novels I've written for the series since writing this one I'm now editing. I'll realize "Wait... did I have him doing this in that one? But I have him doing that over here in this one instead. That's not right. He can't do both. Can he? I gotta change one of these."

I'm now off to read the novels already published, read the drafts written before the one I'm editing, read the drafts written after the one I'm editing, and am now writing new scenes for this draft, in order to match up the chronology and consistency of the series as a whole. I'm now looking for plot holes and lose ends to tie up. I'm looking for places where what he did in the already published volume 22 does not match up with the now being edited volume 122. I'm writing new scenes to fix these inconsistencies and making old story lines match up with new story lines.

Keep in mind that the series in question, was started in 1978, has 130+ novels already published, and has a grand total of 275 novels in the series already started, with me currently working on 81 volumes in various stages of completion. And the way I write this series, it'll likely pass 400+ novels published over the next couple of decades, seeing how I have no plans to ever stop writing it, am writing new novels (80k to 300k words each) at a rate of 10 to 12 a year (though I publish 3 to 4 a year), and will probably keep right on writing into my 90s.

As I am doing this consistency checking process, I'm also STILL asking those "What if?" questions and so, new scenes start being written into the story, often resulting in very dramatic changes in the story line. I consider the 70k first draft to be nothing but a bare bones skeleton, completely lacking in meat, and this process of writing new scenes to answer the "What ifs?" to be the process of fleshing out the story and putting meat on the bones. So in an essence the first draft was actually an outline written in story form, and it is now evolving into the true story that will go on to be published.

The editing process after this point, consists largely of spell checking, grammar correcting, and combing for typos. I'm currently using 3 different editing programs for this, but I used to have 7 different programs I was using. (I got a new computer and have not yet bought new versions of the remaining 4 programs.)

In the end my process is this:

  • A first draft written in fast free flow, often written in a single weekend, that acts as an outline for the novel. (Done in EditPad7)
  • A revision/2nd draft written in a slower, more well thought out manner, usually taking 2 or 3 or more months to complete. (Done in yWriter5)
  • 3 to 7 edits via editing programs, counting as drafts 3 through 6 or 3 through 10. (Done in LibreOffice5)
  • A editor taking a look and a final draft being made via those suggestions. (I used to use beta readers, but haven't in nearly a decade.) (Sent to the editor vis Google Docs)
  • A manual eyeballing it while I format it for publication, edit. (Done in LibreOffice5)
  • Order the printed proof copy, and do the final edit, red sharpie on printed page, then typing those changes into the final draft.

The end result is a grand total of 12 drafts being made of each novel from start to finish.

Anyways, there is it, my editing process.

I edit after.

I'm one of those people who loves editing. I find it very relaxing and peaceful, almost meditative you could say.

On the other hand I find writing to be very energizing. Thus I write myself into an energitize frenzy, then edit back into a state of calm again.

Weird, I know, but that how I do it.

Another Update for 2021, yep, putting this one at the bottom, no reason why, it's just here.

First draft Vs Rewriting

>>>First draft Vs Rewriting Do most people write a lengthy first draft and go from there or do they write a minimized first draft (30k+) and then rewrite the whole manuscript? Quite confused about it and deciding whether to switch methods (originally rewrite).

Me, I just write the story down as fast as I can, in a basic text doc so that none of the spellchecker red underlines show up to distract me. The goal is to get the full story idea out on paper. These usually end around 50k to 70k long. I save that file as "Story Title First Draft - today's date" and don't edit directly in it. Instead, now I open LibreOffice and copy the entire first draft and paste it into a doc file. I save this on as "Story Title 2 Draft - today's date but next year" Than I set it aside for a year and go work on something else. A year later, I open the doc file (not the txt file) and now I have the auto-spellcheck do it's thing. Than I read it and edit/rewrite as I read. This 2nd draft edit/rewrite usually takes a couple of days to a couple of weeks. When finished, I open a 3rd file (doc) and paste a copy of the 2nd draft into it, name it "Story Title 3 Draft" and put it aside for 2 or 3 months, than edit/rewrite the 3rd one and make a 4th one for editing a few months later, name it "Story Title 4 Draft" and so on, for however many times it takes the novel to feel "done".

Usually I end up with around 7 drafts before the story feels finished and polished. And most of my novels, though they start out 50k to 70k in the 1st draft, most of them are 120k to 230k by the time they reach publication (I'm writing door stopper brick sized Epic Length Fantasy so they are longer than most other genres. You'd expect fewer words in say Romance or Cozy Mysteries).

I never throw anything out or "fully delete" scenes/chapters either. If while editing I reach a point of thinking: "This scene/chapter has to go". Rather than delete it from the draft, I create yet another doc file, copy the whole thing paste it into the new file, save as "Story Title 2A Draft" save the "Story Title 2 Draft" file at the point where I stopped editing. Now pick up editing where I left of, now in "Story Title 2A Draft" and now I deleted the scene/chapter and keep on going. That way I have removed the scene/chapter from the story, but it's not gone forever, in case I decide in a later draft to put it back in, or in case I decide to use it in a different novel entirely.

I end up with a separate file for each draft, which I do because I teach writing lectures and workshops at conventions, while cosplaying characters from my novels, and I show attendees what each version of the draft looks like so they can see how much the manuscript changes during each step of the editing process.

Even though I publish several novels a year, which makes it seem like I write/edit the whole novel in only 3 months time, each novel actually has 3 to 4 years of writing/editing/rewriting to them, it's just that I have so many WiPs going that appears less time goes into each one than what actually does, because I can set the draft aside for a year, edit last year's draft, set it aside, edit draft from 2 years ago, set it aside, and so on. Very assembly line process and probably a method that will not be well suited to most writers. I usually have anywhere from 12 to 30 novels in various stages of editing at any given month, which is how I'm able to publish 3 to 6 novels a year. So even though it looks like I rush each novel with only 3 months of work to it, from start to finish it takes on average 3 years for me to take a novel from 1st draft to publication.

Before using this method I had tried several others: outlining, 13 steps, snowflake, etc, and each was okay, but none of them ever felt "right" for me personally, and I struggled quite a lot early on. It was several years of trying different methods before I found one that actually worked for me and it was kind of just years of trail and error before I settled into the routine I use now.

I would suggest, looking at all the methods everyone uses, try out each one, do a different method for each of your novels, and see which one works best for you. Not every method is going to work for every writer and it may take you 3 or 4 novels before you settle into a method that feels right for you.

How long to wait after the first draft?

>>>I finally finished the first draft to a horror short story. I'm thinking about what's a good time away from the project before coming back to it. How long do you guys wait? (if you do at all)

I think the time between drafts, should be whatever you're personally comfortable with, and it's going to be vastly different from one writer to the next.

Because I publish 2 to 3 stories a week, and 4 to 6 novels a year, there is often the misconception that the story was written, edited, and published in only 4 days (novel in 3 months), but this is extremely inaccurate. I've had people who never read my work contact me to say they would never read my stories, because "anything written and published 4 days later must be crap". They are completely clueless as to my writing/editing process, and the fact that 2 years of work go into each story. Just because a new story is published about every 4 days, does not mean it was written 4 days ago. In actuality, if I publish a story today May 21, 2021, it was likely written May 21, 2019, edited May 21, 2020.

Because I have so many ideas, I'm constantly writing. As soon as I finish a story I immediately jump into the next one.

Well, when it comes to how long do I wait between drafts: a full year.


A year.

Maybe a bit long for others, but for me it works.

By the end of a year, I've written so many other stories that I've completely forgotten what I wrote a year ago and so now I'm able to open up the first draft and read it with the same "eyes" as one of my readers, and I'm able to get rid of a good 99% of the spelling/grammar/flow errors with only one round of edits, and publish straight from the 2nd draft.

But than, I'll set it aside for a second year.


There are 2+ years between writing the first draft and the publication, even my super-short-shorts of only 10k words.

So, a story published May 21, 2021, was actually written in 2019, edited in 2020, and formatted & published in 2021 with a final proofread to catch any errors that still remain.

But, this year wait between edits method, I think would only work for others who like me are just bombarded with way to many ideas ad are constantly working on new projects every few days/weeks. If you've only got one or two pet projects that you are working on, you might not be able to distance yourself enough to wait 2 years or have enough other projects to fill up the time between drafts. 

I think, in the case of short stories, waiting a year would probably only work for career writers, who HAVE to publish weekly if they want to pay the bills, and probably wouldn't work for someone without a pre-established relationship with publishers. S if you are just getting started and still looking for publishers and/or don't have lots of story ideas to work with in between, maybe it'd be better to wait only a few weeks? 

But I also think there is no hard/fast rule about it. No right or wrong way/time. Some people write with fewer errors the first draft and can publish a week later. Others, like me, have a lot of spelling issues and can't immediately see them so need to have a very long waiting period. It's all about testing and seeing what works best for you personally. After you've edited a few stories, you'll start to get a feel for what works best for you.

How long does a book typically take to go from final manuscript to publication?

>>>How long does a book typically take to go from final manuscript to publication? I usually see Goodreads reviews appear about 3-4 months before publication. But the final manuscript could have existed before then. So if a book is published on May 28, 2021, approximately when was it probably finished being written, on average?

It's going to be vastly different for every book an author writes, depending on huge variables and factors, like life/health/family/job.

Plus if it's self published, most authors are able to have the book in reader hands days after the last draft is finished, whereas if it's trade published, the average id 2 YEARS OR MORE from the time the author finished the last draft and gave it to the publishing house before the publishing house gets around to actually publishing it.

For me, personally:

The longest one took several years, about 6, maybe 7 years, I forget now, to go from first draft to being published.

The shortest took 7 days, to go from first draft to being published.

Both were around the same word count (about 115k).

The difference in time was because, for one, I was writing it between surgeries and doctor visits and relearning to walk and court cases and police investigations and FBI investigations because this book was being written just before my family was murdered and, so there was lots of life issues going that pushed finishing the book aside.

The shortest time, was only 6 months earlier, 6 months before my family was murdered and life went to shit, and the entire first draft written in a single sitting in one day. It was 47k words and written for the 50k in one day challenge. The next day I rewrote the whole thing, fleshing it out and adding an additionally 25k words. The 3rd rewrite the following 2 days added 17k words each day to it. It was edited the 5th day and edited a 2nd time the 6th day, adding more words each day during the edits. Ending at 114k words total (about 350 pages in the paperback edition). I formatted it the 7th day, made the cover in a about an hour, uploaded it to Kindle and CreateSpace and SmashWords and went on to be one of only 5 people who won the "7 Day Novel" contest challenge that year.

About a month later, I read the print version and I found huge amounts of errors (spelling, grammar, punctuation) and used that print copy to edit right on the pages, then went back to the doc file, made those edits, reuploaded the new file, notified my readers of the updated version so they could get the free revised version Amazon offered back than. 

Preferable Novel Length

>>>I heard from a published author that publishers prefer books on the shorter side during the pandemic, due to the cost of printing and mainly due to limited resources. Is this the case?


Not for Big House press it isn't. 

  • * Tor still asks for 120k minimum up to 200k, 
  • * Baen still asks for 180k minimum up to 230k, 
  • * Zebra still asks for 135k minimum up to 300k.

All 3 of them say if you send anything under 100k they are going to toss it in the paper shredder unread, because 120k is barest minimum and bordering on too short.

I just checked their websites, and those are the numbers they got listed right now July 13, 2021.

Just go to the publisher websites and read their submission guidelines. 2021 is actually seeing requests for LONGER works, not shorter.

In fact, near as I can tell the ONLY publishers going smaller word counts are the Indie Press publishers.

I don't know why so many writers are running around saying publishers want less words, because, no big house publisher is saying they want shorter, that for sure. All you have to do is look at the publisher guidelines posted right on their own websites to find out they are NOT asking for shorter works.

>>>My question to the group is whether or not there is better advise for writers who find themselves with a 150k+ draft?

Yeah there is. It's called, look at some REAL books. Most trade books ARE +150k words. Only in the world of self-pubbed Kindle ebooks do you see skinny books with no meat on the pages.

Just because everyone SAYS big house pubs want under 90k, doesn't mean they ACTUALLY want that. Look at the submission guidelines of big house publishers. You'll see many of them outright say don't send them anything under 120k and stick closer to 180k. Yeah. 30k MORE than 150k.

My question to the people telling them to cut it in half would be: **Why the hell are they all so clueless as to how long MOST trade published books ACTUALLY are?**

Look at the word counts of trade pubbed Fantasy: Sword of Shanara, Lord of the Rings, Mists of Avalon, Dragon Riders of Pern, Lord Valentine, Harry Potter, Wheel of Time, Legend of Drizzt, The Witcher, most of those books have 10+ volumes in the series and each volume is 150k to 230k EACH volume. Most of those series is a single story that spans 2 million to 8 million or more words, divided across 10+ books of +150k.

You can tell, the commenters who are neither writers nor readers of the Epic Fantasy genre when they say 150K draft is too long. No. It's NOT. 150k is bordering on too short in the Epic Fantasy genre. Most people saying they wrote 150k draft, usually they say it's the Epic Fantasy genre, so they ARE in the expected word count that publishing houses are looking for.

I'm sorry, but, commenters telling someone to cut a 150k Epic Fantasy draft in half, REALLY don't know the genre at all.

Sure a lot of genres want smaller word counts. That's true. Westerns, Medical Drama, most Horror, most none-Paranormal YA/NA, those genres do want you to stay around 90k. If that is what the question asker wrote, well, editing is the answer.

I worked as an editor in chief for 16 years. I've seen a lot of manuscripts in my days. Most have the same issue: Long run on passive voice sentences, that could easily be cut down into 3 or 4 easier to read active voice sentences.

USUALLY most writers can remove 10k or more words, without changing the story at all, simply by doing this:

Use find replace to make the following changes:

  • * change ", and" to "." then capitalize first word after "and"

  • * change ", yet" to "." then capitalize first word after "yet"

  • * change ", but" to "." then capitalize first word after "but"

  • * change ", however" to "." then capitalize first word after "however"

  • * look for 2-word or 3-word phrases that you can change into a better single word: for example: change "similar to" to "like", change "obediently obeyed" to "obeyed", change "prior to" to "before", change "after that" to "afterwards", change "being bullied" to "bullied", change "way bigger" to "bigger", etc - note that these phrases often contain "to", "that", "was", "be", "being", "were", and "-ly", so search for those and you'll find a lot you can change to one better word.

  • * remove ALL of the following words: very, rather, instead, supposedly, suddenly, actually, literally, nearly, simply, just, utterly, elaborately, starkly, that, really, fully, barely, hardly, hardly ever, permanently, indefinably, exotically, etc.

  • * remove "And/But/Yet/However" from the start of every sentence then capitalize first word after "And/But/Yet/However"

THOSE are the types of changes editors want when they say something like: "good story, great characters, I like it; tighten up your text and resubmit it".

Those things listed above, THAT is what "tightening your text" means. It doesn't mean cut out scenes, it means, reword those scenes to fewer words, to make them read better.

Yeah. For most writers, that is all you have to do to remove 10kor more words from your novel, without making one single change to the story.

To every body reading this right now, go to your current draft, and try that right now. You'll be amazed, both in how many words you remove AND in how much easier it'll be to read your story, without changing or removing a single scene, sentence, or chapter.

In my experience, being an editor for Horror/Fantasy/Sci-Fi for 16 years, most writers use more words than they need to. They often can say things better with fewer words.

For example:


>>>MC made it back to his village without further incident, but when he arrived, his father was less then happy to see his son dressed in a dress and looking like a daughter instead of a son and immediately began arguing with him, and thus MC never got a chance to mention his encounter with the primary villain or inform the village that the villain's army was travelling only two days outside from the village.

75 words and difficult to read.

Can be edited down to this:

>>>MC arrived at his village without further incident. His father was unhappy to see his son dressed in a dress, looking like a daughter instead of a son. They began arguing. Because of this, MC never mentioned his encounter with the primary villain. Nor informed him, the villain's army was two days outside from the village.

56 words and easier to read.

...without changing the scene or the story, at all.

It really does boil down to: if you know good grammar skills, you'll write better stories with fewer words and be understood better too.

So, yeah, just buy a few high school Grammar & Composition textbooks and spend a few months reading every word and doing all the exercises. It'll do wonders to tighten up the over wordiness issue that many authors suffer from.

And remember, in most standard paperbacks, 150k words is ONLY 300 pages!

A 500+page book is also a +200k word story, and when you start looking around at the new releases in the Fantasy, Historical Romance, the 50 Shade Knock Off genre, Paranormal Romance, War Story genre, Women's Lit genre, and most YA novels, you'll also notice that NONE of them is self published because big box brick and mortar book stores don't shelve self-publishers that's why you don't see self-pubbed books in the real world of actual trade market paperbacks, and you'll also notice a good 80%+ of those books in the above listed genres have page counts of 400+ pages, meaning not one of them has FEWER than 150k words, and most have upwards of 180k words.

You can tell a person who only reads self-pubbed kindle e-editions and never saw a mass-market paperback  in an actual bookstore, by what they think the average word count of books is.

Heck, all you have to do is grab yourself a copy of The writer's Market and start reading what trade publishers WANT to see 150k to 180k is the average requested manuscript size more than 90% of big house publishers ask for.

Many Stephen King books are +300k words.

EACH volume of Harry Potter and also the Witcher is between 180k to 230k words

In the past 50 years I've published more than 300 novels, 138 of them for a single series, and the shortest novel I ever wrote was 115k, with most of them being 150k to 180k and often considered TOO SHORT by most the big Random Penguin House type publishers.

Zebra won't even look at anything under 180k for their Historical Romance line (aka The Fabio Bodice Rippers) and prefers +200k

The difference between Fantasy and Epic Fantasy is the LENGTH of the novel, NOT the topic. Fantasy is any Fantasy novel UNDER 150k while EPIC Fantasy is anything OVER 150k and most big house publishers of Epic Fantasy REQUEST +180k

Want to read 80k light novels or long novellas? Get yourself a Harlequin subscription. Everyone of their slim little itty bitty short 100 page reads is EXACTLY 82k words. Also the Cozies (Think those little itty bitty skinny, not thick enough to be a novel, Agatha Christie type Murder Mysteries) are in the 80k range.

You want to read a 50k word book? Head to the middle grade chapter books, Read Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Choose Your Own Adventures or Bobbsey Twins.

Want 20k word book: go to the grade 2 to 4 early/easy reader section. Grab yourself some GooseBumps and Bailey School Kids.

There's some word count perspective for you.

A LOT of the people on Reddit's many writing subreddits give really bad advice, that does more harm to new/young writers, largely because a good +80% of the commenters are NOT published authors, have no intention of being published authors, and don't know heads or tails of how the actual publishing industry works.

Unless that advice is coming for a TOR in-house editor, reading your draft and wants to publish it, the advice to cut a 150k draft in half is REALLY bad advice. And in most cases, it's writing advice from people who don't have writing careers and don't have any real concept of how novel writing works.

Now, that's not to say they don't mean well. I think in most cases, they don't know what to say, they want to help the question asker, and they've seen so many others saying "cut the book in half and publish it as 2/3 volumes" that they assume it MUST be good advice if so many others said it, so they just parrot that advice without really knowing how improbable that advice really is.

When all is said and done, I think the writer who is looking to Reddit or any other online place for advice only a publisher should be giving them, probably doesn't know how the publishing industry works and probably,, has bigger issues (like plot and character development) to worry about, than their word counts.

In the end, if the story is good, the plot flows well, the characters are engaging and well developed, most publishers will work with you to get the book published no matter how many words too long or too short the novel is. When it comes to trade publishing, story, plot, and characters are going to trump word counts every time.

Writers SHOULD be worrying about developing good characters and telling a great story, first and foremost. Word counts are far easier to fix than plot holes and flat characters are.

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