Homefront: Week 4


It feels odd to call this week of writing complete. Even though I added six chapters and 17,650 words to the manuscript, I still feel two chapters and 6,000 words behind. For me, that’s one day of solid writing, and as 2013 draws to a close I see the number of those days dwindling.

I want to write those chapters right now. I know exactly what they are, have dialog spinning up in my brain for them, but I need to step away and enjoy myself for a while. I may even get back to them tonight, which would push my total for the week even higher.

Or not. When I closed things down last Saturday, the MS stood at just over 35,000 words This week I wrote exactly half that total, and left nothing sitting on the page. The words are coming easier now, and as the plot develops it takes less and less time to do continuity passes to get previous chapters into shape.

I read recently that a book should go through about ten drafts before it’s ready to be published. I’ve actually lost count on the where the Wandering Novel sits, but if you count the very bad versions I workshopped in the 90s, I may have exceeded that number. But Hearts of Iron is essentially the exact same book I handed in, with a couple more chapters added and some good editing. Blood and Ashes was a much more involved process, but even then we’re going forward with about four drafts overall.

So how should I feel about doing revisions on a book that in my opinion, is almost halfway done? Not in length, though if I keep up my current rate I should fall somewhere around the 100K mark. But I’m referring to how it feels. Things aren’t looking too good for my protagonists, and although the characters themselves are improving, their general situation is slightly worse than those poor bastards who picked the SS Minnow for a quick day trip. In fact, their last coconut tree will burn down over the next few chapters, which more or less tells me that I’m at the end of Act II.

Or, am I? My gut tells me that I finished Act I this week as well, so I think we can safely say I’m planning on more that just the standard three. But reviewing what I’ve written so far, I may actually have blasted past Act I with the pitch I sent Mark at the beginning of the month, putting me on track for five or six acts based on the overlong synopsis I worked up last week.

That’s a lot of stuff to fit into a 100K word book, so it’s time to either write smarter or make some hard choices. I’d rather push through to the end and have someone else make them for me, but the editor in me really wants to measure thrice, and cut once.

I have no hard word count, or specific instructions to follow for this book. What I have is a contract, and a deadline. I need to deliver a good book on time, so my editors and I can make it into a great one. There’s no need to resolve every character’s inner demons, or even name them. I don’t need to solve every mystery in the universe. But I do need to get most (some?) of my characters to the end of the story, and the climax I can see so clearly in my head.

Damn you, book larnin! It used to be so easy to write badly. Now that I know what I’m not doing, it’s become fun instead.

And I’ll take a hard thing that I enjoy over an easy thing I’m not proud of any day.

See you kids next week. I’m shooting for 75K, because why not? You’re worth it.


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