Sunday, October 14, 2012

Viewpoint Characters and Word Count Worries

First, 40K words on this Revision!  Not bad, 2K words tonight (2093 actually), not a bad little writing stint once my littlest was bathed and in bed.

On the subject of Viewpoint Characters:
First, for those of you not familiar with the term (i.e. the few people who follow this blog because they have the good fortune to know me and bask in my presence regularly, but aren't necessarily writers or of "the craft") a Viewpoint Character is someone inside the story the writer uses to tell the story directly.  They're generally the only people in the story you get inside the head of, the people who give a story its voice and feel.

In the first person perspective, it's the narrator.  In third person limited (which I'm writing this book in) it's a select group of characters.  The VCs are generally the characters you get to know best (if the writer is doing their job), and you either love them or hate them.  If a writer really does their job, you name your children after them.

My book currently has 3 main viewpoint characters, and yesterday, while preparing to have my family over for a late Thanksgiving (for Canada), I had the crazy idea to pare it down to 2 VCs, turning one of them into a secondary character (mostly for Word Count worries).  Looking at my Outline today, that doesn't seem overly feasible at present, there's too much story that's reliant on each of them to get told.

Once I've started fleshing out my second VC by writing out their strand of the plot, maybe I'll revisit it. Or perhaps when I get my first rejection letter that suggests the idea of dropping a VC to strengthen the other two (shouldn't happen!).  We'll see, when the time comes.

My other concern, which is what led me to the thought of possibly cutting out a Viewpoint Character is word count.  Word on the street (and in just about every submission guideline I see) is that first time writers should shoot for their book to be under 100K words.  It's a matter of publishing costs vs. risk on an unknown author and audience.  I get that completely, and it worries me.

As you can see from the word count and the first line of this post, I've just broken 40K words, and I'm not even done my first viewpoint...  If I already had an Agent or an Editor they'd probably point me in the direction of slashing and burning a healthy portion of the story to get in under (or just over) the wire.  Of course, they'd have a good idea of WHAT to cut, and simply put, at the moment I haven't a clue.

So, I'm going to stay the course, finish this Revision/Re-Write and go from there.  Once this draft is done I'll do what I hope is a lighter editing pass and do my own cutting and cleaning.  Then I'll hand it to my Alpha Readers and see what they say, and possibly cut some more (please don't make me add more!).  Then we'll see.

You always hear about writers getting writers block, what about writers that have the opposite problem?

- Grimm

P.S. Hook Line and Sinker's submission windows may be closed, but it's still making for some fascinating reading.  I'm learning a great deal from other people's pitches and the comments that are coming out of them.  You should check it all out on the respective blogs that are involved: Kat Ellis (@el_kat) is covering YA, Fizzygrrl (@fizzygrrl) is covering Adult, and Dee (@writeforapples) is covering MG.


  1. Here is the guideline given by my Grade 10 English teacher: The length of a manuscript is the same as the length of a woman's skirt. Long enough to cover the essentials, yet short enough to keep the interest!

    1. Not a bad philosophy (even if it's showing it's age a bit ;P). I intend to finish this draft, then see what I can do to clean it up and take out some of the clutter.