Saturday, February 11, 2012

Thoughts On Writing And Length...

Last Tuesday I went to the Foxtale Book Shoppe in Woodstock for the release party of Blood and Bullets by James R. Tuck.

Once there, I made the acquaintance of one of James's friends, another writer named Janice Hardy, who did a reading of The Healing Wars Book One: The Shifter.

After the readings were done, I asked both of them how long their books were.  I think both of them were in the neighborhood of 81,000.  Blood and Bullets is 351 pages long, while The Shifter is 384.

At present, Battle for the Wastelands is around 97,000 words long and that's with several remaining chapters partially finished.  I was hoping to keep the first draft below 100,000 words, since I remember hearing somewhere that publishers don't want to risk a too-long book from a first-time author and 100,000 is a good ceiling to set.  However, with the addition of a new chapter of politicking to break up what a member of my Lawrenceville group called "battle fatigue," it seems I'm going to break the 100,000 word ceiling.

Although James and Janice didn't seem to think this would be a problem, Janice offered me a tip for cutting word count without cutting characters or scenes.  Instead, cut 10-20 words per page.  That's a couple of sentences.  In a 500 page book, this amounts to 5,000 words being cut at least.

She even gave me some words that are basically filler--"that, had, just, only."  I remember going through Battle cutting the use of "had" already, which I've gotten into the habit of using in a journalistic fashion--simple past tense to describe something that just happened and the past perfect tense (the one using "had") to describe things that had happened at some earlier point.  Some uses of the past-perfect survived, but others did not.  And I've been trying to keep use of "that" to a minimum for the last couple of years, ever since one of my editors at The Griffin Daily News pointed out how useless "that" is in most contexts.

We'll see how it goes.  The goal is to finish the first draft of Battle within the next couple of months.  If I push myself, I think I can finish three chapters in fairly quick succession for the Lawrenceville group, although my last "creative spurt" when almost entirely into a short story I'm writing to "invert" the trope of Doomed Home Town.  Writing 2,000 words in a single night is great, but those 2,000 words could have completed one or two chapters and gotten me closer to finishing Battle, which is a much bigger deal than even a successful short story.

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