This isn’t really quite as commercial as it sounds though it’s obviously sensible not to send a 100,000 word novel to a publisher that states that they won’t look at anything over 70,000 words. There may not be anything wrong with your 100,000 word novel – it’s just that that particular publisher isn’t right for your work.
However, do be aware that one of the first things that often happens when you work with a professional editor is that they ask you to shorten your carefully edited text.
Here, really, I’m talking about making sure you’re always speaking to the same reader. This anyway is where voice comes from. Voice exists in the gap between the reader and the writer. Your reader is another character.
Format, then, defines what is contained in the novel. Format may address items such as length of chapter, the amount of pace and tension required and the narrative balance.
You do also have the option of deliberately writing for a particular publishing house. You turn their guidelines into a template. You may also create templates for different readers.
As many of you probably know, I often write for young adults. Here is a template I use for that. The novel should include:
1) Mixed genre
2) Emotional closeness
3) Leaving reader to decide
4) Pushing boundaries
5) Fast paced / high stakes
6) Characters resemble young adults
The mixed genre element is a godsend. So often work is rejected because publishers can’t work out where a book would fit on the shelf in a bookshop. Is your work fantasy or real life? The beauty of young adult texts is that the points above define it rather than a particular genre.
The voice is important here too and should normally be of one young adult telling one another what has happened to them but before they’ve managed to rationalise it. The reader does the rationalisation and this is one of the decisions they make.
Can you create a similar checklist for the genre you are working in?