There are two possibilities:
- Step five: Whittle away word by word until you are at 1500 words.
- Step six: Repeat step four.
- Step seven: Repeat step five. (you’re at 1237 words)
- Step eight: Repeat step four.
- Step nine: Repeat step five. (you’re at 989 words)
- Step ten: Repeat step four.
You see where I’m going with this.
You will eventually get to a place where you absolutely cannot get rid of anything else.Your story is only wearing underwear at this point. Getting rid of any more will make your story cold and hard to look at and fairly awkward.
That means you are done! Yea! Even if you didn’t make it all the way down to 500 words, you have made it through the hardest part.
Now, let’s consider option #2.
A true story: After getting my story to a place I was fairly happy with, I was close to 4000 words. I was shooting for a max of 2000 words. Well darn-it all… After going through the previously mentioned (painful) process, I settled at 2300 words. I was running out of time before this self-inflicted date of “local writers conference weekend”. I hesitantly took it to pitch to a couple of agents. After convincing them this was the greatest book ever, we talked a bit about some of the challenges I was having with word count. They both (as if it were the obvious solution) told me that instead of a children’s picture book (a very long winded and possibly unsellable picture book) I should ADD words and turn it into an early reader’s chapter book.
So, that is exactly what I am doing. I do not at all regret the deep edit that I did however – my story is much more readable. My characters are much more believable. I was forced to take a good look at the story's main objective and realy dig deep and decided what it was really about.
So, without stalling for another paragraph, here’s an example of the query letter that I wrote for my upcoming children’s book:
The Beautiful Weeds
A Harvest Hollow Tale
As told by me, Pumpkin Lou
(a small sprightly fellow)
(Addressed to specific agent)
Getting lost in the forbidden fields was admittedly not a well thought out plan. But in a twist of fate, Pumpkin Lou’s adventure yields an unexpected encounter with a smelly ally and an intriguing new world among The Beautiful Weeds.
Harvest Hollow is an idyllic place for a young garden sprite like Pumpkin Lou to grow up, but being volunteered for some unwanted responsibility is the corn kernel that pushes him over the edge. In a snap-pea decision, he decides to run away but soon finds himself lost in a world that has only been seen in his nightmares. While trying to get his bearings in this strange place, he meets The Beast. Although a smelly, unsightly lady at first glance, she teaches him that things are not always as they first appear. Lou learns new details of his homeland and his family’s past. He realizes that what is considered beautiful and useful in life will change depending whom you ask. And he learns that a new view on the world is sometimes exactly what you need when you are feeling stuck.
This easy reader, picture book is 2300 words for children ages 6-10. An engaging story with thoughtful characters and a roller coaster of emotions, The Beautiful Weeds is the perfect book to introduce children to the magical world of a garden. It creates intrigue for the possibility that other tiny worlds live and thrive among us.
I am a technical writer by day and a creative writer by night. I have been drawn to the small, hidden details in nature my entire life and am no stranger to gardening. I strive to write stories that challenge the imagination while teaching something new. A full copy of my manuscript is included. I appreciate your time and consideration.
(closing and signature)