Splitting Butterfly in Two

Originally posted on Michael Runs the Gamut on April 15, 2014

[Comments from 2021 are in italics, enclosed in square brackets, like this one.]

My first completed novel, If a Butterfly, was EXTREMELY long. The first draft was well over 300,000 words, about 1,300 double-spaced 8.5 x 11 pages; but — in its defense — it’s a complex story, spread across an entire continent and into outer space [no, it’s not sci-fi], and is peopled by a sizable group of characters. That hefty word count, I think, was a huge factor in keeping me from securing an agent to represent me, especially considering that I’m a first-time novelist.

I think it’s a good novel, especially now that I have polished, trimmed, and reworked it several times. It’s now a svelte 236,000 words, about 900 pages, but the same issue still exists — too long for consideration — so I decided to do something about it.

Tonight I began the scary (for me) process of dividing the book into two distinct novels, each roughly half the size of the former whole, and preparing the text for e-book distribution. I have other shorter novels in the works also (one complete and two others in process), but they’re far from ready. I thought I might as well get Butterfly out in the marketplace and see what happens to her.

I’ll do a final polish and trim after I’ve separated it into Book One and Book Two, Before the Storm and After the Storm [now they are titled Chrysalis and Emergence]. Fortunately, there is a natural dividing place (following a climax) near the middle, so I should end up with one book around 120,000 words and another about 115,000 (or a bit smaller after I trim each of them).

[The book titles and the size of the book(s) changed, and shrank, and grew, and shrank again, as I continued to work on the book.]

This will be my first time to e-publish, and I’ve resisted it for a long time, but I thought it might be better to have the book out there in the world instead of just sitting on my hard drive (and backed up on four others and multiple CD’s and DVD’s, of course).

[I ended up e-publishing The Jagged Man in 2015, six years before Butterfly will be published, in both print and digital formats. Things don’t always turn out the way we plan.]

The next few posts will be about the pitch for Butterfly that caused a few agents to reject the book, and how it developed.


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