Monday, March 28, 2011

Ruled by rules

The genre I read to death, that I love the most, is chick lit (the typical ones like Marian Keyes, Sophie Kinsella and Catherine Alliott) so when I wrote my book, that's the sort of tone I feel I have written it in. HOWEVER the storyline has a love triangle that includes a ghost. It doesn't delve into the whole afterlife aspect a great deal, but basically the main character moves to an apartment haunted by a young male ghost and after learning to communicate with him she eventually falls for him.

When I first attempted a query letter I described it as chick lit. After posting it on a website to have others critique it I was told it was a 'paranormal romance' and therefore the word count was insanely too high (115 000 words). What are your thoughts? What genre (given my very simple description) would you class it as, and based on that do I need to cut the word count down a huge amount? I suppose I'd also like to know if an agent likes the query letter, thinks the storyline sounds interesting but the word count seems too high, would they still be interested or reject it based on word count?

Paranormal romance, like all genres/subgenres with 'romance' in the name, has specific rules. I am no expert in them, although I do like to read a bit of the ol' paranormal romance. With the rules come rules about submitting: if you want this story to be categorised as paranormal romance, then you need to submit to agents and publishers who handle that genre and you may, accordingly, need to trim down your word count if that's what the genre calls for (and I must say that the novels are on the 70 000-words-or-thereabouts size).

There is no rule, however, that says you must submit your manuscript as paranormal romance. If you think it's chick lit then it's chick lit. Or 'women's contemporary'. Or just fiction. Accordingly, you can keep your 115 000 words and submit to agents and publishers - just don't submit to those who specialise in paranormal romance.

If an agent/publisher likes the cut of your jib but thinks you are word-heavy, they'll likely tell you. However, I never advise cutting just for the sake of it. The story takes as long as it takes. If your story needs 115 000 words and there's no fat in there, then there's no point cutting just because someone else thinks it's too long.

So your task now is to decide what sort of novel you think you have written, identify agents/publishers to submit to accordingly and do not under any circumstances say in your query letter that you are prepared to cut the length if the agent/publisher thinks it's warranted. We know that authors will usually cut if we ask them to - if we think it's needed. But you shouldn't lead with that, as it's tantamount to saying that you don't have confidence in what you've written.

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