Thursday, March 29, 2007

Bollocks

So the first redraft of Natural Causes is done. I've successfully (I hope) turned the evil baddie into a good guy and removed another strand of the narrative I wasn't too happy with. All in all, not bad going for a week's work. Especially with databases to arse around with at the same time.

But there's a problem.

In Stephen King's very interesting and useful book On Writing, the enormously successful author outlines a rule given to him by the editor of the first paper he worked for, which goes something along the lines of:

second draft = first draft - 10%

Now not all rules are hard and fast. It's quite possible to remove a lot more than that when you trim a novel of its surplus fat, as I did with the first two Benfro books, and will have to do with number three whenever I get back to that endless story. But as a general guideline, it's not bad. Aim to trim ten percent off, and your writing will benefit from the loss of superfluous adjectives, woolly introspection and unnecessary asides.

The first draft of Natural Causes came in at a portly 131,009 words, so by the rule of Steve, the second draft should have been around 118k. It's actually 126,667, or a reduction of a paltry 3.31%.

One of my agents comments on the first draft was that it was too long. I had hoped to trim a lot more off.

As I said, bollocks.

Still, there's no point worrying about it. Draft two is better than draft one in my biased opinion. It's time to send the story out into the big world to try an find its fortune. If it's successful, then I'll get my scalpel out again. And who knows, I might even have professional help by then.

Labels: ,

3 Comments:

Blogger Sandra Ruttan said...

Well, I recently took a beating elsewhere for saying 'feck the length' but fuck it. Louise Penny's Still Life was 150,000 words in the first draft. By the time she edited it down to publication it was under 100,000.

But not every story can be trimmed that way. There are some people who felt SC was too long. There are others who felt I'd skimped on it and should have taken more time on certain things.

You're well within the acceptable standards to sell. And a good editor will either know that what's there is needed or help you trim it out a bit more.

It's ready to go. Stop fussing!

March 29, 2007 5:05 pm  
Blogger Vincent said...

While it's the first part of a trilogy and something of a different beast, my second draft took M101 from 135,000 words to 156,000 words. I did cut a fair bit, but I also shifted in some stuff from book two. Though I do believe re-writing is about removing superfluous stuff and enhancing the rest and sometimes the desire to cut can go beyond the superfluous and cut into necessary narrative.

That's what I tell myself anyway.

March 29, 2007 6:45 pm  
Blogger JamesO said...

I'm not fussing, Sandra, merely concerned;}#

And it's really more of a disappointment, after the epic liposuction I carried out on Benfro book two, which lost about 20% of its body weight. Book three will be fun, if I ever get around to it.

I did manage to increase the word count of an earlier novel, Head. It went from about sixty k up to a hundred and twenty-five. But that was because in the first draft I'd forgotten to write the middle.

I was such an amateur back then.

March 30, 2007 8:05 am  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home










Handwash only