There comes a point in every writers life, I believe, where we find ourselves staring at where we are on the path of, dare I say, greatness and realize just how far we’ve come.
Each of us has a different moment that brings that cataclysmic revelation. For most, I’d imagine, it would be at the point when an agent or publishers says “Yes!” instead of the typical no. Or it could happen when they hit the best seller list. For others, such as myself, it happens when you’re not thinking about it.
I’ve mentioned a few times that I’m struggling with Life Without Parole (LwP). Mostly it deals with the word count, or lack there of. To be perfectly frank, it’s too short to be called a novel and too long to be called a short story at 32,000 words. This problem has caused me to try to add more to get it up to that allusive 50,000. I have 17 more to go. Last night, while my husband was playing Mass Effect 2 on the PS3, I started to brainstorm ways to bridge the gap.
The problem is that all my ideas, which were good in my opinion, are in what I call the unnecessary aspect of a story. It’s nice to know, but to be perfectly honest, the reader doesn’t need or even want to know. The scenes would serve no other purpose than to extend the story from 32,000 to 50,000. It was that realization that made me see just how far I’ve come as a writer.
Let me give you an example.
My first book, which I’ve been trying to find an agent to represent, is called Memory Lane. It started at 125,000 at the end of the fourth draft and with the help of an editor/friend I managed to sheer it down to 97,000 words. It was agony to do so in some cases because I really liked several of the scenes I had to cut out, but in a flash of honesty during the cutting process I realized that they were either redundant or unnecessary. A great example is the one where I had firmly established that my character had no memory of the incident so how could she relive it? She couldn’t so snip snip it went despite the gasp of agony that accompanied control-x.
So in that manuscript I learned how to cut out what was unnecessary to keep what was. It taught me how to use the critical eyes of a reader that says “Okay, why did I need to know that?” I’m sure we’ve all ready books that either went nuts with their descriptions of a place (read one book where he spent 50 pages describing a world within a library, still have yet to get through that section) or has some side bit that I really could have lived without reading about. It had no bearing and did nothing to enrich the story.
In Life Without Parole I’m learning that I’ve come so far that I haven’t found any passages that are unnecessary, all of it vital to the story for the readers to get an understand of what was occurring at the point of the story and hint heavily as to what is to come for the characters involved. I took a bad guy and after getting rid of him (thanks Dad for the inspiration) came up with an even bigger set of bad guys. Unfortunately, even with the changes, the extensions in the explanations of how being an immortal works within the context of my story and with a dose of some memory extension to show just how bad the current bad guy is, it’s still not enough.
My struggle is that I’m fighting myself to put in the unnecessary and feel like I’m going backwards instead of forward. That the path, which is long behind me, is fighting me turning back to sloppy habits that existed back then where, because it tickled my fancy, I added the scene. It’s the war that I think I’m loosing and might soon wave the white flag and find an alternative.
That and I’m starting to wonder, is the guidelines that publishers use in relation to word count play a factor in self-publishing as well? Something to research after I finish the fifth draft of LwP…
- How to write a novel | Narration (mike10613.wordpress.com)
- Word Count – It’s Just a Number, Right? WRONG (writersparty.com)
- Word Count Goals and New Themes (christiangoth.wordpress.com)