woensdag 25 juni 2014

The Fabled Too-short First Draft

I'm done! Or am I?

For the last week or so, I have been pushing myself to write without thinking, and just get the novel on paper. Yesterday, I finally finished my first draft.

I celebrated a little, started dreaming about becoming a published millionaire best-selling author, and checked out my word count.

22.140 words.
I had to breathe into a bag for a while.

For those of you who do not obsessively research word counts: that's short, even for the YA novel I'm attempting. (I'll post about word count ranges later in the process.)

And not just 'push out a few more chapters' short. It's less than half the desired length. Less. Than. Half.

After the initial panic attack, I started doing some research and regrouped. I had been planning on having to pare down my novel excessively in the editing phase, and having to agonize over what scenes to cut. Instead, I would have to add even more words than I'd already written. How do you add words to a finished story, without writing a sequel?

The internet to the rescue

Even though most editing tips deal with too long first drafts (like 200.000 words - how on earth do you word-vomit that much?), there are a few excellent articles out there on how to flesh out a novel. The emphasis here is that you flesh it out, instead of just adding unnecessary padding. Since a lot has already been said about it, I'll just summarize the most salient points here:

Janice Hardy talks about how to check for things that might be missing in your novel: clarity, action, back story, etc. She also warns against adding characters and subplots just to get to a word count. Reading this, I realized that I had taken the reader's understanding for granted on some points, and that I should give them a little more clues into my main character's motivations.

Emily Wenstrom mentions the importance of pacing, and the pitfalls of focusing on your main character too much. People interact with others (unless they're complete hermits, which does not make for a very interesting story), so having a decent-sized cast of characters is vital. This was a reality check: my first draft is so fast-paced the reader would probably not be able to remember what it was about by the time they finished it.

Suzannah Windsor Freeman mentions the pro's and con's of short first drafts (and long ones too, for those of you who are interested). After stumbling upon this article, I relaxed. Rewriting scenes to include descriptions might be hard, but at least I know what the important parts of my novel are. Now I just need to add words that emphasize these parts, instead of detracting from them.

And last but not least, Lee Bross gives some examples on how to expand your word count to add intrigue.

After reading these posts, I have a pretty clear idea where the holes in my first draft are. I'll be posting later about my experiences with character development, descriptions and motivation/goals.

But first, I have to get writing to crank up that word count!

The Noveling Novice


Do you have trouble with word counts? Are your first drafts too short, or do they tend to be too long? I would love to hear from you!

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