I almost entitled this post ‘the re-write’. It almost feels that complete, but in truth it’s not. This is a normal stage of the writer’s craft, the revising.
I likened it in a previous post to sculpting and if I could extend the metaphor a little (indulge me I pray) I’ll refer to pottery (try not to picture me as Patrick Swayze to your Demi Moore)
The 300,000 or so words I had once were a massive block of clay. Too massive. I got that down to 241,000 and sat back and thought ‘that’s a lot of clay I hacked off that sucker. I don’t think any more clay could come off that.’
It took me a while to realise I was wrong. Even when people looked a bit sceptically at my ‘finished piece’ and said ‘gee, it’s pretty big’ (keep your mind out of the gutter!) I thought to myself: ‘yes, yes it is. It is a great big fantasy novel that I have written and I’m fine with that.’ (when really I wasn’t)
I was asking the wrong question, and all those nagging little anomalies I knew were there I ignored because I wasn’t really ready to ask the right question and expose them. So when I did. When I said to myself ‘it’s a big Fantasy novel, but is it really a good one?’ I found that it wasn’t really finished. I had finished drafting. I had started revising. But then I had stopped.
So in the last month or so I’ve been hacking clay away. I’m hovering around 200,000 words now and more must go. That said word count is a secondary concern. Some will be lost, because that is the nature of these revisions. Only the worthiest scenes and sentences may remain. The herd will get stronger because I will kill the weak (to jump from clay to buffalo for a moment. It was a brief visit though, back to clay).
As an update I am currently on page 62 of my revised draft. That’s 18,500 words which have survived my scrutiny. The manuscript is 201,000 words on 649 pages in its current state. (These are MS Word pages based on double-spaced, size 12, TNR font). So in one sense I’m just under 10% of the way through.
That accounting is a bit misleading though because the plot-point I am currently revising took place on page 180 of my 241,000 word manuscript. That manuscript was 766 pages long (MS Word, double-spaced, size 12 TNR). So on that measure I’m about 15% of the way through on page count. I’ve cut out 117 pages and 40,000 words so far. Of the nearly 60,000 words I’ve revised less than a third have survived.
Now it’s worth pointing out that there are reasons for this that mean extrapolating that rate of word-loss is unrealistic. I am not planning to (or going to) end up with a manuscript of 80,000 words. Sure that’s in the range of recommended novel length for a first time author, but I don’t see it happening here. I will end up under 200,000 though, of that I’m quite certain.
The goal is to have this thing pitch-ready by Genrecon in November. It’s a daunting goal to be honest, but the exercise is cathartic and I am very confident it is improving my novel, and my writing craft. It is making me a better writer, and that is, after all, my stated goal.