As I mentioned last time, I have been madly spilling pages from my pen these last few months, totally enjoying my mismatched Regency couple. When I first draft a story, it comes straight from the right side of my brain, my subconscious, or some creative vortex that spills directly into my fingers, bypassing my conscious mind. This is where the metaphors and similes—and a lot of nonsense—emerge, not from any careful plotting or planning. I see the scene in my head, feel the emotions, and I use whatever words that spill out to capture those scenes on paper. Later, when I re-read, those words connect me directly to the vision and emotions I’d earlier experienced, even though I shudder in horror at how they’re phrased. At that point, the editor in my head steps in, and writing shifts to the ugly, dreary left side of my brain that fusses over commas and dangling modifiers and excess verbiage. (I love this blog that calls the final stage of the creative process Obsession (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kimberly-brooks/the-creative-process-in-e_b_71909.html). Unfortunately, I don’t have the patience to carry my editing obsession to the extreme of rewriting the same book forever!
Right now, I’m fifty pages from THE END, and I’ve run smack dab into the wall of word count.
I’ve read lots of reviews where the critic claims the ending of a book “feels rushed.” Well, yeah, and I can tell you why. It’s because it’s utterly impossible to be creative, to let your characters grow and become strong, and rein them in with word counts! I feel sorry for the authors who run into deadline frenzy at the same time. I plan ahead enough to know all my plot points and conflicts and ending, and I try to work far in advance of of my deadline, but it’s still impossible to always make everything come together right.
In the case of this book, I know exactly where I want my characters to go and how to get there. I have the perfect ending in mind. But it will take 5000 more words than I’m allowed to write it to my satisfaction, which rather
puts a damper on my creative process.
So now I have the choice of “rushing” my planned ending, or going back and whacking out a heap of verbiage elsewhere, or jettisoning my creative process and moving into editor mode to figure out how I can pull together the conflicts, explode them on the page, and satisfy the reader while preventing my publisher from having hysterics over the size of the manuscript. The next time you hear anyone say that writing a book is easy, shoot them for me, please. Or better yet, hand them a pen and tell them to try it.
For those among you who are more interested in practical process than creative, because I know you’re out there, I try to keep my boisterous creativity within word count by tricking my subconscious into thinking it’s written more than it has. Obviously, that’s not working so well any more, but when my word counts were 100,000, I learned to set my draft margins at 1.2” instead of 1”, and I use Bookman Old Style font for my draft because it’s proportionally larger than the Times Roman that my publisher prefers in the finished product. That way, I can time my pacing by planning an emotional turning point around page 100, 200, and 300. Theoretically. And I know I need to wrap the book up by page 400.
Which, as I’ve just said, isn’t working so hot, because that technique pulls me in at 90,000 words, and that’s the new standard in mass market. I need to develop a new trick because my editing will add to those 90k words, not subtract. Arggghhhh!
If I can’t come up with a 50 page ending, I’ll need to cut out the sex. Or maybe the cute kid scenes. Or the secondary characters. At this rate, I’ll have lots of snippets to post on my website! And a book full of holes.
Y’know, there’s something to be said about e-books—I bet they don’t have tight word counts! But that leads us to the question—do readers really want a book that goes on forever? I know we used to buy the biggest book we could find for our dime, but these days, there are so many other things to occupy us, does anyone really want to read a book the size of WAR AND PEACE anymore?
Which also leads to the question—in these dangerous economic times—are books good value for their cost?