Difficult Choices #1

This post is approximately 550 words. It had been longer, but…difficult choices were made.

Phew. It’s been more than four months since I posted Tighten Up Your Writing #6. The final draft editing continues apace, which is the primary reason I haven’t been blogging.

Well, that and the Gears 5 Tech Test over two weekends in July.

Anyway, today’s update is about a choice I’d been debating a few months. Jack, aka Trusted Reader 16 and one of my most enthusiastic contributors, had given me the same feedback each time I provided new chapters: Some were too long.

He was right every time and I followed his suggestions.

After his latest round of feedback, I literally tallied up the word counts of every chapter and put them in a spreadsheet (hey, I’m a data guy).  A few hit 6,000 and two were on their way to 8,000. In most cases, every scene within a chapter was connected and followed a theme. I did my job well enough that the chapter titles fit all the pieces within.

And yet, those were some long chapters. I’d recently set a target of 3,000 to 4,000 words to keep the reading effort light, while also making it feel like the story kept moving. I was missing the mark. It reminded me of reading when I just want to get to the end of a chapter so I can take a break. Fortunately, I’ve yet to receive that criticism from my Trusted Readers.

I had a difficult choice to make. Do I break up the big chapters?

Murder your darlings

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Writing Update: July 16, 2016

This post is about 500 words. 

Fingertip sketchIt’s been a few weeks since my last writing update, and in that time, I’ve passed 92,000 words, done some painting, and added a few other posts to the site. I also added a new page – a placeholder for illustrators because I’m looking to partner with one or more people to bring some additional life to the website.

That might seem like a full schedule, but I did have two major events in there:

  1. Fourth of July weekend – with distractions abound. Some were the exploding kind, but many were the kind that required feeding.
  2. Bought a new truck – which necessitated a lot of time for research. And a bit of joyriding. OK, a lot of joyriding.

Neither of those was unwelcome, of course, but they left less time for writing.

Perhaps more importantly in that time period, the novel has officially reached Second Draft status! To be honest, it took longer to get here than originally anticipated, but now that I’m here, it doesn’t seem like I wasted too much time along the way.

celebrate.gif

What does this milestone mean? For one, I’ve hit all the primary beats of the story. All the things I wanted to convey are down on the page. Additionally, I don’t want to add any more subplots or characters into the mix because I’m happy with the balance I currently have. And finally, it means the real work begins.

Oh yeah, if it took an effort to get to this point, I expect even more challenges as I try to bring the words to life. The story has direction. A beginning, middle, and end. Character development and scenery.

On WritingBut there are holes. Flat characters and scenes. I expect there’s a bunch of garbage to purge, as well as scenes that contradict each other. That’s fine and was anticipated. Unlike that foolish youth I used to be, I understand that your first draft is not your only draft. Stephen King’s rule of thumb is to cut 10% of your first draft here. For those of you who like math, that’s a 9,200-word removal, or 2-3 chapters.

If you’re expecting perfection at the end of the first draft, I think you’ll be surprised to discover you have a poorly-written document that doesn’t accurately convey the brilliance of the full story floating about your head. And that’s not something that does anyone any good, especially the readers you hope to engage. For a little context, most of my blog posts are second or third draft. Some are fourth.

So, it’s time to add some layers, some color, some real personality, and some real emotion into my story. It’s in my head, even if I can’t articulate it yet. Here’s to the Second Draft.

Cheers!


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© Michael Wallevand, July 2016