Would cutting 400 pages make it a better book?


By page 300 of Hideo Yokoyama’s novel Six Four, I was getting weary.  “Where’s the editor?” I kept thinking. “Didn’t someone have the courage to tell this guy his story isn’t working?

The questions of a book critic and a manuscript editor are sometimes the same ones.  It was true as I prepared my review of Yokoyama’s big bestseller for the pages of the Los Angeles Review of Books.  You can read my review by going here.

I found myself shifting gears and thinking of Yokoyama’s book as I would about my clients. ( To find out about my editing services, visit here for more information.)

The normal reaction of many manuscript editors — confronted by 500+ pages — is a simple one:  Cut, cut, cut.   Any novel that crosses the 300-page threshold is liable to sell poorly (that’s what some think, at any rate) unless it happens to have been written by J.K. Rowling or E.L. James.

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Haunted by Ghostwriting: Richard Flanagan



Truly, ghostwriting is a gift. An ability to inhabit another’s voice and speak as if it were your own.

The fact that the little word “ghost” is attached at the front doesn’t change one fact: This is real writing. Difficult writing. Just like any writing.

When it works best (as in Andre Agassi’s memoir written with the help of JR Moehringer), there are no signs of it. The text feels composed by the autobiographer/memoirist alone. When it doesn’t work so well, as in Richard Flanagan’s case (described in his new book First Person), it sounds more like a demonic possession.

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The Artful Writing of Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer (I’m not kidding)

fearless flyer


I don’t know who’s behind Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer, the Victoriana-inspired promo newspaper at the Trader Joe’s checkout counter, but I would like to thank her … him … them.

Whoever is behind it knows a thing or two (and more than that) about how to balance the facts with a conversational tone that, sadly, is missing in so much social media writing today.

(Hey wait, am I inadvertently including myself in that judgment? Shoot, I am … ok, fine.)

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