Sunday, July 6, 2008

Writing to the Word Count

Over the years I've read a few books where there are scenes that I just go "huh? why is that there?" They just seem to come from no where, like maybe a mistaken cut and paste from another book. Maybe? Then I figured out I needed to go look at the publisher's minimum word counts and began to wonder if in these rare cases of the "huh" scenes if the author had to stop writing the story and write to the word count. It sure seemed like that was what was happening and it sure brought the story to a grinding halt. I could be wrong -- it's been known to happen.
But about this time yesterday I knew I was writing to a word count on a book. I just knew it. I submitted one of my books to an agent and she immediately took a look at the first ten and I will be eternally grateful to this agent because she took the time to tell me what was wrong. You can't improve if you don't know what's wrong. She pointed out two things to me, both easily fixed, or so I thought. The first part was easy. Just add a scene that I'd been thinking about anyway and then, because I was "done" didn't do it. It may not be the best intro scene but I'm working on cleaning it up.

The second part was she told me that NY houses are looking for 80,000 or better -- I was at about 71,000 and she didn't feel she could sell it below the standard count. I understand that. Totally. That's a good chunk of pages when you run it out. I knew I could take care of that -- the scene I had been thinking about and making some of my descriptions richer. I worked on it the past three days and by this time yesterday was at 79,000 and felt pretty good about it. But I realized I had begun to write to the word count and not the story. It was becoming loaded with junk that meant nothing to me. I put it away.

When I woke this morning as I do most mornings, I knew what I had to do to make it right. I do feel fortunate that my dreams come through that way. I believe my/our subconscious churns away while we're sleeping and resolves most of our problems for us. (I won't digress into the day job). Excited I started to work -- my ending wasn't really the ending. I didn't have the family being happy about the wedding, I didn't have the wedding, I didn't have that last love scene and I didn't have the remaining bachelor do some thinking about his own future. Well duh. Slap myself on the forehead and start writing.

3,000 words later I'm at 82,500 and it wasn't to the count. I cut out about 2000 words I did yesterday to get the count and still came in at 82,500 and it feels good, really good. Of course it needs to be edited. I know I've got a couple of stupid things that someone needs to say to me "excuse me?" and I can probably catch most of them myself reading it over this week. I liked this book before. I really like it now. The original ending was all right -- this, I think, ties up some pesky loose ends and the epilogue leads into book 3 which I REALLY like because it's a time travel!

I really felt blocked trying to get to the count instead of writing the story that needed to be told. Of course Rick, the "star" of book 3 has been pounding through my dreams for over a year, demanding I get on with it. He doesn't want to be married, no, not him, nope, not at all -- just get him a bride!

Now I feel like I can move more solidly into either Her Eyes 2 or Road Trip. Have to see how I feel tomorrow.

I have to work the day job tomorrow -- probably Her Eyes 2 -- it's a time travel with a really disgusting bad guy that when I told Jennifer Cloud how warped it was she was thrilled I was developing a bit of horror to my stories.

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