So I went to a fabulous talk on Thursday. The topic was "Writing a Young Adult Novel". The speaker, Antony John, author of "Busted" and "Five Flavors of Dumb", did a marvelous job explaining the varied and exciting world of young adult writing. He convinced me that Threadcaster absolutely should be a young adult novel - it's straightforward and experimental and concise with teen characters and clean to slightly dark situations. He even signed a copy of Dumb for me with the encouraging words "I look forward to seeing your books".
So off I went home to start reading his novel, hoping a published YA would give me a peek into the "Authentic Teen" voice he said was so important. I learned a thing or two about authentic teens; they speak in incomplete sentences and use the passive voice (but that might be because the author is british), but they also like their chapters short. Like... five pages short. Then i noticed that the amount of words on a page is next to nothing compared to the amount of words per page in my Threadcaster document, so a chapter was more like two pages. Then I noticed his book was the same page number as mine... and with the difference in content per page...
... to add all the parts up for you, my book is too long. According to the notes I took at the talk, an average young adult novel is 40,000 words. Threadcaster clocked in at 140,000 words. that's 100,000 more words than is generally publishable, and that's a lot of words.
To it's credit, through editing only the first chapter i've managed to pare out 12,000 words... but the sheer size of the task is still daunting. This leads to three options - butcher the hell out of my book, split the book in to two or three volumes or ignore it and hope someone publishes it anyway.
Option one does not sound good to me at all. I can cut out redundant phrases, but to get that kinda word retraction I'd have to cut out a whole Element! If we skipped Water Town or Wind Town all together then maybe we'd get down to 60,000 words (after removing all of Zephyr or Lynn's dialog. We'd get more removed with Lynn). I've worked really hard building these relationships though... there's no one in there who is just kinda there and not serving a purpose like Nell was back when I decided to cut the Lightning curses.
Option two is not favorable. There is one place where the story could concievably break. It's what I call the "Wrench Scene" where I take us all in a totally different direction. The only problem with breaking there is that it's the bleakest place in the whole book... and ending a story with such tragedy would suck and most the second book would then be somber. Or maybe it'll be a good thing? Ending on an unexpectedly awful note might get people to run after the second volume as soon as they can to find out what happens. Then the second book I can spend more time getting to know Jared who has precious few scenes. It'd be a bit of filler, but it's easier to add content than subtract it.
Option three is what I'm going to do for now. Who is to say someone isn't going to want to pick up a 100,000 word book just because they're a teen? I might lose some audience members but hopefully the pace and sense of adventure will drive them on. I have a whole stack of Redwall books on my shelf- those are YA and excessively long, so there's not rule saying it cannot be done.
I still have doubts about being able to sell the book to an agent though now that I know it's both a first novel and an overlength one. I'm really doubting myself and my work lately, I think it's because I'm tired and I've been so critical. All I want is to edit the thing so people can read it - I think when I hear feedback that is not my own I'll regain some of that confidence, because in my heart I know the book is good. I know the universe is interesting and the characters authentic, just as an author it seems stale and overdone.