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.

I thought the same way when I first started Six Four, but the deeper I went into Yokoyama’s story, the more I realized how essential everything was.  There’s a purpose to every page, and it takes time to unfold what he has in mind.  I would have LOVED to have served as his editor and supported him in bringing this portrait of a Japanese police media relations officer to life.  (Obviously he already had that person!)  That’s the type of editor you want (if I do say so myself!) for your work — someone patient enough to wait and look for patterns and meanings.

I won’t say more about that novel here, my beloved friends.  I’ll instead encourage you to read about it at the LARB, which richly deserves all of our attention and support.

Onward, my friends.


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