January 10: The reward for writing a novel

Oh sure, you might get rich. You may be another Stephen King or J.K. Rowling but before you are you will to do some of the most hateful work imaginable, and I don’t mean you’ll write your novel.

No, you will edit and proof your novel and you will hate the process, as we all do.

Today I excised 49 scene headings. While I did I made sure their removal didn’t make the overall line flow get screwy. It did in many instances but overall the process was less onerous than I anticipated. And, less onerous is always a big win when it comes to this kind of thing.

My next task was to create the front matter. This was relatively painless since I have decided not to have a foreword and a dedication in Cottonwood…just more stuff to write and edit, don’t you know. Really, though, I simply don’t have anyone in mind for the dedications beyond myself for being silly enough to launch into this book so soon after my first novel was up for sale. Those 49 scene heading were used to help me stay aware of where I was in the book relative to its sequencing and also when it came to editing and being aware of my proximity to other elements of the plot. They were replaced by four sections entitled I Spring, II Summer, III Fall & IV Winter. I can’t really tell you why other than the nature of the story causes it to move through the four seasons almost exactly. That was not by design, but it works or at least I think it does.

The only lesson here is to plan as much as possible and then be willing to abandon your plans as your book demands. The moment you worship the what you plan to do it over what the story and your characters need all of you are doomed. Plan away, by all means. Figure out systems that make your project make sense and seem manageable. Just be ready to be flexible because you surely will have to be if your loyalty remains where it belongs.

Today and tonight’s writing soundtrack is Olivia Chaney’s The Longest River from 2015. You’ll note the last two evenings have found me listening to two vocalists, last night Tim Curry and Chaney tonight. I can explain it like this. I wasn’t really writing yesterday or today. I was editing and that process seems to shift my brain’s gears in a way that makes it possible to divide my attention to the words Chaney sings in Loose Change without losing my sense of what I’m trying to accomplish. Also, vocals do their part to keep me company while I’me doing something that’s even more lonely than writing creatively. Anyway, Chaney has a lovely voice and the arrangements are very elegant. Some of the tracks on The Longest River are among the most beautiful I’ve ever heard.

Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.

January 10: The reward for writing a novel

120,000 words & conventional wisdom

I was fooling around looking at the word count of my novel the other day and I stumbled across a number of amusing articles contending that 120,000 words is some kind of magic number that one was unwise to exceed, especially as a first or second novel writer.

My favorite quote so far is:

“Word count limits can seem like they stifle artistic flow, but they exist for a reason.”

Uh, not really.

This is 2020. There are front list books. There are back list books. There long and short list books. But, there is no┬áinherent relationship between word count and quality and I don’t care if the author is a newbie or Dostoyevsky.

The fact is that duration or word count might well be inextricably bound to the depth and complexity of the writer’s vision. If ebooks and contemporary printing technology has brought us anything┬áit should be freedom from arbitrary limits respective to word count and the like.

So, if some stodgy old editor tells you differently, feel free to ignore what they say.

Only the author (and his or her trusted editor) can say whether a book has too many words (or too few).

To say otherwise would be to go back to the 20th or 19th century.

Let’s not…

 

120,000 words & conventional wisdom