Friday, July 01, 2005

So what have I been up to lately?

It's been a strange week all on my own (apart from three dogs and a cat, of course). There's been some paid work to get on with, but mostly I've been wading my way through Abundance, a Science Fiction doorstop of a novel I wrote a while back and then put aside. This was the book I sent to Agent Phil (Stuart's, not mine) when he kindly offered to read some of my stuff and comment. It took a while for those comments to sink in and formulate themselves into a plan of action, but now I've got the bit between my teeth, so to speak (quiet, Rickards).

A few facts and figures. The first draft manuscript was 165,000 words long - more than a ream of paper to print. It was my fifth book, my fourth novel and the first one that I wrote from a full plan. I don't know if this is why it turned out so awful, but somewhere along the line I forgot how to write dialogue and I lost the art of cliffhanger chapter endings - two skills I thought I had honed as a writer of serial comic scripts.

Mr Stuart read this behemoth in its entirety and was ruthless but gentle in his criticism. I then whittled the thing down to 147,000 words, leaving me a few handy scrap sheets left over from the ream. This involved removing such memorable lines as 'She's a comely wench' and '‘I should like to go to college, sir, if at all possible. I have the grades and I would learn more of astrophysics, stellar cartography, engineering...'’ (and those are the ones I'm not too embarrassed to print). I can't begin to imagine what was going through my mind when I wrote those lines, but speaking them aloud really helps.

This slimmer but still lardy version was what Agent Phil read. His main criticism was that it was too long, which bugged me after I'd taken so much out. But he was more specific and pointed out several areas where the liposuction could be done. So all this week I have been whittling away some more, and now my obese baby is starting to look positively trim. Three quarters of the way through and I've already taken 43 pages out. At this rate we should be looking at a final page count of a little over 400, or about a twenty percent reduction on the first draft. How the hell did I get so wordy?

But what's been most interesting about coming back to a novel I've not read in a year or so, is just how much I enjoyed it. Sure there were large chunks that are even now swilling around in a big glass vacuum jar. And I've cringed at yet more dreaful dialogue that didn't make the first cut, but the story's a good adventure, the characters are largely believable and the whole thing was pleasantly easy to read.

Which has to be a good thing, right?

5 Comments:

Blogger Alex Bordessa said...

Good luck with the snipping. It's always better to have too much stuff, than too little. At least you have a choice and don't have to concoct padding/waffle of some sort.

Good grief! A man who has 'Sheep of the day' on his blog can't be be all bad :-)

July 01, 2005 6:29 pm  
Blogger JamesO said...

That's Sheep of the Week actually. I'm way too lazy to post a new one every day ;}#

July 01, 2005 6:41 pm  
Blogger Gabriele C. said...

Alex, are you stalking me all over the blogspehre, LOL?

Too long first drafts, tell me. My peeve was description. I've read too many 19th century novels and started every chapter with a big slab of description, like "here's the setting and now we'll get to the action". Horrible.

July 01, 2005 9:10 pm  
Anonymous Lynn said...

Trimming is dangerous if you like it (which I do, a little too much.) I'm always more worried about the pacing than the wordcount, so I tend to go overboard removing color and description from a scene. I know I've gone too far when the book starts to resemble a script from a radio performance of Who's on First.

July 03, 2005 12:23 am  
Blogger Gabriele C. said...

Lol, nowadays I don't put much colour and description in to begin with. Speak about fast paced. ;)

But my first drafts of "Kings and Rebels" and the part of "Endangered Frontiers" I wrote during Nano 2003 are too wordy.

Seems I've changed my writing somewhere on the way.

July 03, 2005 5:53 pm  

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