Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Adding to the word count.

Blood of the Succubus.

My goal is to write a satisfying chunk of a book.  At least 90K words, and 100K words would be even better.

My first drafts -- for some reason -- tend to be around 60K words.  I usually figure out some plot things I want to add which can add another 10 or 20K words.

Still not there.

If I take a 250 page book, and I add 30 words per page on average, I've increased the book by 7500 words. Now this may sound artificial, and it is in a way -- but it also turns out that such a goal helps the book.

It is the intent of the increase that counts. Because those 30 words needs to be "telling detail."

So for instance, say I have the hero running from danger through the woods.  So I might mention a shrub he passes and brushes up against.

The additional "telling detail" might be how the bush's thorns snag his shirt sleeve, tearing it, maybe even cutting into his skin, how he lets out an involuntary cry, how he hears the creature following him zero in on him -- anyway, that kind of thing.

It not only adds words, but adds to the vividness of the story.

When I'm writing the first draft, I'm mostly focused on getting the story down, and I'm in a fictional dream and sometimes the detail is there and sometimes it isn't but I'm not worrying about it.

In the second draft I'm mostly concerned with improving the language, making it more active and clearer, making sure the plot makes sense.

In the final rewrite I can finally concentrate on really fleshing out the story, making sure that there are no dropped threads, and strengthening the threads that are there.

The artificial word goal merely makes me look for the opportunity to improve. There is always an opportunity.  Some pages might have whole paragraphs written in expansion, others only a few words. But I've found that in this final draft, with the goal of fleshing it out, I tend to clarify and sharpen and add telling detail and catch connections that I may not have seen in the first two drafts.

It's very intensive -- I find it takes at least as much time and more energy than a first draft, strangely.  I just have to start at the beginning and go to the end.

Generally I can do about 2 hours of this before my brain rebels. Before I become ineffective. Usually about 5 to 10 pages.

Then I walk away for an hour or so.

Come back and do another 2 hours.

Then take another hour off.

Then do the last 2 hours of rewrites.

That's eight hours, though it usually works out to be more like 10 hours of work because both the writing and breaks can go a little over those limits.

But the end result is so noticeably improved that I've decided to expect to do it to every book.

For perspective, I also need at least a month between the first draft and the second, and at least a week between the second draft and the third, (when I usually do the research, if any).  All of that expands the process even more. 

But there it is. Being a writer.

Writing the first draft is like playing. Everything else is work.

1 comment:

Duncan McGeary said...

It's noticeable that the second draft, clarifying and sharpening, would seem to be best to be the last draft, and the third draft, adding telling detail probably should be the second draft.

But it doesn't seem to work that way with me. I need a complete book, with everything in place, before I can take that last step.