AQATWA was a weird book to write, weird in part because it took me seven years to write it. All the previous AQ books got shorter after revision. Usually the final manuscript ends up 3% to 8% smaller than the first draft.
AQATWA got longer.
I expanded some sections. I added a few new ones. And of course, rewrote others. Much of this was due to beta reader input (they didn't tell me to write more!), but I ended up with more material that I just didn't want to cut. AQATWA was my longest book yet, and I promised myself I would not let each book become more bloated. AQATWW would be leaner and...
Right now it's at 220,000 words with 41 chapters written, and 60 chapters outlined. It keeps getting bigger!
It may be trimmed with some ruthless editing. My beta readers might convince me to cut the Buffy the Vampire Slayer cross-over in the middle (...that's a joke). But right now, book six is looking like it will be even bigger than book five.
Some professional authors develop a tendency to become "too big to edit." J.K. Rowling is a chief offender, and I don't just mean Harry Potter -- the latest Cormoran Strike book was almost a thousand pages, for a mystery novel! And fan fiction or web serial authors can write as much as we darn well please. We don't even have editors or publishers to set limits.
(Why do I mention web serials? I've tried reading a couple, including Worm. Most would be greatly improved with leaner writing and tighter editing.)
Some fans love every bit of extraneous detail and subplot. For every reader who thought the Ozark sequence went on too long, there seems to be another who'd like me to write much more about Ozarkers. (Though there seemed uniform agreement that the Pruett School sequence was boring and no one cared about all those new Day School students. Which is a shame because I have detailed background stories about all of them, but like a good
However, I don't want my last two books to become bloated and self-indulgent, so hopefully I'll be able to identify parts that can be cut.
Keeping a PG rating will cut at least four words.
I've got at least one side trip that, while I like very much, is probably a candidate for the chopping block. But right now I feel like the storyline is even less linear than usual, even though, ironically, I have done more outlining with this book than any of the previous ones.
I've never been a devotee of dramatic devices like the Three Act Structure or Freytag's Pyramid, though I think my plotting is generally pretty conventional. But right now I feel like AQATWW is missing some structure. It's an episodic collection of Alexandra's adventures rather than a rising narrative. This is a deficiency I'll have to correct, along with the bloat. And of course I still have a bunch of fuzzy resolutions and plot holes to fix.
Notwithstanding my self-criticism, I think the book overall is good. Events build on one another, things that have been developing for a long time blow up, and there is enough angst, drama, and magical WMDs being unleashed to satisfy shippers and epic fantasy fans alike. ("Satisfy" meaning you'll get plenty of it. I make no promises that any shippers are going to be happy…)
And I'm getting to the hard part. Start your dead pools now.