Friday, May 11, 2007

64,715 Words

It occurred to me yesterday that I will be finished in 60 pages or so. It made me realise that I have to take a new approach with the book.
So far, I've been plodding forwards, a few hundred words at a time, stopping every now and then to re-read and make changes. It has been a very linear process. Now I realise that I have to allow it to unfurl. I have to spread it out, literally, chapter by chapter and get a really good look at the whole story. So that's what I've been doing for the last couple of days.
I printed it all out (a page at a time, instead of two or even four pages per sheet, as I usually do) then stapled each chapter together and laid them all out on the floor. It was quite revelatory.
For example, it was by looking at it in this way that I noticed that I had let six chapters come between the 2nd crime scene being discovered and anyone doing anything at all about it. They were only short chapters and, within the linear narrative, it made sense to do so but in the story (which I am coming to find is a different thing, not always rational, not always easy to bend to my will) it was just silly to have such a big gap. Anyone reading the book would have thought 'Eh? What on earth has this got to do with anything I've been reading about so far?' so I've added bits and chopped bits and generally made it flow a little better.
This gave me another shock: if I'm likely to be ADDING to the chapters I've already done, a page here, two pages there, then this 60 pages that I have left to do is going to get eaten up pretty quickly. If I still want to constrain the book to 80-90,000 words, I've got to wrap things up in maybe as little as 45-50 pages to the end.
I have 15 chapters left to do (this is dictated by the structure that I've been working to from the very beginning, and can't be changed). I had planned to manipluate the pace of the story by shortening the last few chapters, in order to create a feeling of racing toward the conclusion. At this rate, the last two or three chapters will only be half a page each! People may think it's pointless and perhaps too contrived to stick so rigidly to a word count and a preconceived structure but I have to do it, at least for this first book, or else I'd never finish. I'd re-write and re-write, adding descriptive passages, over-explaining the motives of the characters, adding internal monologues to clear up vague plot-points; all of which might benefit the story, I don't know, but I'm a real short-story fan so I know it's possible for a writer to do everything they want to do within a strict word-count, if they're only clever enough. I'm determined to try.


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