Sunday, May 07, 2006

Method and Madness

I've updated my Novel Progress graph located at the bottom of the left hand column. According to it, I have 44 percent of my novel done. The warning flags are popping up in my head, because I'm beginning to get into the final third of the storyline. According to Terry Whalin, who acquires fiction for Howard Publishing, the length he looks for and accepts is in the 80,000 range. If a manuscript falls under that, it more than likely is rejected before it's ever read. Other publishing houses have similar guidelines, which has led to my dilemma.

Of course, plenty of first novels only run around 45,000 to 50,000 words. It's not uncommon for a first work to be a "short" work, or novella. I don't see 50,000 words being a problem. I might even be able to break 65,000. But 80,000 I just don't see happening without significant padding of the plot, which I believe would be milking it for way more than what it is worth at this point. I know, I know you've said, finish the book first and then worry about the length. My biggest fear, though, is that having finished the book and begun the editing process, that when I start cutting out the chaff, my counts will be even shorter. One author said she keeps this in mind as she writes and overwrites the original draft.

I've tried this method, and every time I'm tempted to overwrite or add more than necessary, my automatic editing feelers pop out. No, you don't need that. That's too much information. You're boring them unnecessarily. They'll put it down. Stop rambling. Stop padding. Remember Hemingway. Simplicity. Simplicity. This is the conversation going on in my head as I write. Whatever "padding" that is to be added is going to have to pass my personal entertainment litmus test. It simply cannot be added for the sake of length. And frankly, I'm running low a bit on steam.

Which leads me to question my method of outlining the entire book before writing it. Have I stifled my creativity? Have I limited my plotlines and the natural unfolding of the story? Am I losing interest in my own story before I ever finish it? I don't think that is the case. I've written about 7,000 words in the last two days. In fact, it's progressing so fast that I am having to slow myself down. Maybe that's it. Maybe I'm just getting the framework, the basics down. Maybe there are many more nuances to be painted, much more flesh to be put on the characters, much more depth to be crafted in the themes. Yes, that has to be it. There has to be more. It's already a story. It needs more life breathed into it. More oomph. Am I up to the task?

We'll soon find out. Keep my feet to the fire friends. And have a great night.

7 comments:

Annette Burkett said...

I can't even begin to imagine writing a novel, painting or sketching something that takes weeks, if not months. I don't think it's lack of patience or my want of instant gratification. It just confounds me to try to see the whole picture and then start at the beginning and fill in the middle. You definitely have a gift.

Jade said...

I think you should bind and gag your internal editor until you finish your book. I had to in order to get anything done on my first book. :-) Keep at it! It's SO INCREDIBLE to reach the finish line for the first time. :-)

We are all word junkies...but there's nothing else I'd rather be! :-)

Your Sister in Christ,

Jade

Heather Smith said...

I'm working on a novel myself. I've actually finished one, but it needs major reworking. I mean major. The thing is that now that I know more about the craft of writing, it seems so much harder. I can't just throw words down on paper like I used to. I critique myself to death. At a writer's conference I went to last year, I heard that you should never critique the first draft while writing it, but that's a lot easier said than done. I'll pray that God will let you get the story He wants you to write down. If He wants the story told, it will be published whether it's too short or not!

Bro Tim said...

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March St. Ives said...

Just yesterday I participated in "Books in Bloom" a garden party of writers and readers. Some more famous authors like Suzann Ledbetter and Nancy Pickard were there promoting their new books and offering writing advice.

They said just write, write, write until exhaustion forces you to pry your fingers away from the keyboard -- then go for an hour long walk... alone with only your thoughts for company. Offer up one of your writing problems as you walk along. "The answer will come," they promised.

C. H. Green said...

Great advice. Thanks for sharing what you gleaned with us. I'd love to go to a conference someday soon.

Lisa said...

I agree with everyone! Get the book done and then you can revise later. The key is to get the main parts done. I am posting my novel on the Notebored 2,000 words at a time in the attempt of revising my complete novel. Whew, it is a challenge, but I've got the core done, which makes me feel "somewhat" better. I think many don't complete their book because it is so overwhelming to try and work out the details as one goes along. It's frustrating. I have parts in my book that I love and other parts, well...I don't love as well.

I wish I would have outlined my thoughts/writing/novel (or as I went along) because I had to go back and outline the entire thing after I was done. That, my friend, is not fun. It took a whole Saturday to get just a core outline done and then I had to work on a synopsis-yuck! So while I don't think one has to have an outline at the beginning, it must be nice, as long as you're flexible and if you're making note of the changes as you go, you're going to be in a good position to make changes later on...when you get over 300 pages, it's hard to remember where that scene with cousin Sally is...I didn't think of those things, obviously.

I wouldn't worry about the length-just go for it!! You can move things around and add to various scenes after you're done. You'll do that anyway ;) Donald Maas has an excellent workbook on taking a scene and with the aid of this workbook, stepping up what you have already. It's fantastic! It helped me a great deal to get more of a wow factor. Not many wowing right now, but you get my point :)

I had a popular author (so popular I can't remember her name)-anyhoo, I had a popular author that I corresponedw with who wondered why I even paid attention to my word count as I wrote my novel. My answer was that it encouraged me by showing me that I was actually accomplishing something, I guess. But in actuality, you're book will be what it is, no more, no less. Gee, listen to me...like I know what I'm talking about. :)

I do know one thing...it isn't a novel until it's complete. You'll have plenty of time to work out the details.

You go girl!