Today, we’re very lucky to have Angela Sunde visiting us on her blog tour to promote her new Aussie Chomp, Pond Magic. Angela is going to give us some great tips on how to write a book that’s less than 12,000 words.
Hi, Angela and welcome:)
It’s lovely to be here today on the Tuesday Writing Tips blog. Thanks for having me.
Angela, did you have a lot of editing to do to get the exact length for an Aussie Chomp?
Yes, I sure did. My original manuscript of Pond Magic was nearly 15,000 words and the first thing the editors asked me to do was cut it back to under 12,000, which is the maximum Aussie Chomps word count.
How long is Pond Magic now?
Pond Magic is just under 12,000 words long now. The final edit stood at 11,977, so you can see that I was counting each word as I deleted it.
How did you do this?
I went to bed and tackled it in the morning. Cutting back 3,000 words from what is a relatively short manuscript can be daunting.
The first thing I did was to read through and circle or underline obvious cuts. But this didn’t work that well, as I was too familiar with the story.
So I created a table with the headings: Word count, Scene, Propels plot/themes, Develops character, Reveals world, Setting, Magic/Humour and lastly Hook. Then I systematically summarized each chapter under those headings. This showed me immediately which were the weakest chapters and where I could cut the most words.
Pond Magic is ideal for 8-12 year olds; the tween market, who still laugh at slapstick humour like burping, but worry about how their peers perceive them too.
Is this the longest thing you have written?
It was the longest work I had written at the time. Since then I am close to completing a junior novel. I also enjoy writing picture books.
Was it hard writing to a specified length?
No, not really. I simply wrote the story that evolved and then cut it back. Initially I thought Pond Magic would be a lot shorter.
What do you enjoy about writing to this length?
The simplicity of the planning and the plotting and seeing the story develop quickly.
What is the hardest part about writing to this length?
Stopping at the maximum word count.
Do you have any tips about how to write a complete story to this word length – bearing in mind that many children’s books for this age group are much longer?
I would keep the number of characters down, limit the number of obstacles your main character has to overcome and write a scene list of only about fifteen scenes. This of course can be flexible.
Also, the secondary characters do not need their own sub-plot.
A book this length can’t be too complicated so can you tell us how you went about plotting your story?
I start off by mind-mapping on a large scrap of paper. In the centre bubble I write the problem and the main character. Then spreading out from there I draw bubbles which represent the consequences of this problem, obstacles to overcoming the problem and what happens if the problem gets worse (raising the stakes).
With mind maps nothing is impossible and my mind comes up with all sorts of crazy scenarios. It’s hilarious to look back on them. I also mind map some of the themes of the story, for example ‘frog’ and ‘French’. This gives me fresh ideas for developing the plot.
Some of these bubbles then become scenes. Initially I started off with ten scenes and this increased as the story developed. There are now seventeen chapters. Structurally the story is not complicated at all.
Were there parts of the story you would have liked to have kept?
No, not really. I was very careful to retain nearly all of the original humour throughout the editing process. Humour helped to propelled the plot forward and made for great hooks at the end of chapters.
When you have to cut words how do you decide what stays or goes?
Good question. I counted every word and sometimes this meant using a contraction instead of two words, or rephrasing a sentence to make it shorter. It was like counting the hairs on a flea. (Do they have hairs?) I did cut back some scenes to the bare essentials also and I think they are better for it. It was a good lesson.
You have created really strong characters. Do you have any tips on how you created them within the confines of this word count?
Thank you. I like to give my characters what I call ‘quirks’; Maureen rubs her nose when she is lying, Lily’s mum is obsessed with all things French, Mrs Swan shuffles along in her slippers. These quirks help to fill out the characters for the reader and it’s easy to pop these in as attributive ‘dialogue’ action.
Do you have any other tips for writers interested in writing these kind of books?
If you have written a good short story lately, it may make a great opening scene for a book of this length.
Thanks for dropping in and giving us your great tips, Angela.
Thank you, Dee. I really enjoyed my visit.
You can catch Angela on tour at:
21st October – Stories Are Light – Sandy Fussell –
22nd October – Write and Read with Dale – Dale Harcombe
Review and Developing a Character
23rd October – Sally Murphy’s Writing for Children Blog
Getting Published for the First Time
24th October – Cat Up Over – Catriona Hoy
What Girls Read
24th October – Kids Book Review
Review of Pond Magic
26th October – Tuesday Writing Tips – Dee White
Writing to this Length
27th October – Kids’ Book Capers – Boomerang Books
Review and Where Story Ideas Come From
28th October – Kids Book Review
The Aussie Chomp Format
29th October – Tales I Tell – Mabel Kaplan
Promoting your First Book & Planning a Book Launch
30th October – SherylGwyther4Kids
Once upon a time in a far away place…
What a useful post, Angela and Dee, and I love the way you were so organised with the process, Angela.
This post has come at a perfect time too – I need to lose 20,000 words el pronto from one of my stories! Thank you. 🙂
Thanks for this post. It has been really helpful.
Angela, such great advice- writing is both creative in getting the plot and characters both going and also nitty gritty in working to audience and word length- thanks for sharing. Good luck with Pond Magic and thanks Dee for hosting.
great tips about dividing it into headings to see where to cut. Very helpful info. thanks Angela and Dee.
Angela has a great way of working, doesn’t she?
I think that some of the methods Angela uses in studying the her manuscript scene by scene can also be useful for making a book longer.
Good luck with your story.
I’m glad you found this post useful.
It’s great advice, isn’t it? Sometimes it can be hard working to an exact length and Angela has some great strategies.
Thanks for dropping in, Dale,
Glad you found Angela’s tips helpful.
I found your process most helpful … and I so enjoyed the interview. Thank you, Angela and Dee.
I enjoyed having Angela, visiting and spreading her words of wisdom.
Thank you, Dee and everyone!
These questions truly clarified my process for myself also.
Thanks for visiting, Angela,
Sharing your process has been very helpful for other writers.
Thanks for dropping in, Chris.
Glad you found the post useful.
Thanks so much for this insight Dee and Angela. As a newbee writer I found it ( and this site) really usefull! I will be checking in here more often!!
If you have a writing question or there’s a topic you’d like me to do a post on, feel free to suggest it and I’ll do the best I can:)
Great stuff girls. Heaps of tips and an interesting read too. (Now if I could only figure out how to write 15,000 words in the first place!)
Angela, I love that classy photo of you poised to write. It catches me every time I see it.
15,000 words is all in the plotting:) It’s like a house…the more substantial the house, the more substantial the framework you need.
Loved how you used the categories to summarize your chapters and then cut the word count. a very useful tip. Thanks for letting us in on your process, Angela, and congratulations on your publication.
Thank you for providing such a great writing resource, Dee.
Angela’s process is great, isn’t it?
Thanks for dropping in. I always enjoy your Buzz Words:)