Although I still have a lot of edits to do on the novella, I think I’ve accomplished a lot in the past six weeks. This week I made all the final additions to the story, sorted out the chapter breaks, and did a fair amount of revising, so at least I can say I have a decent start on the second draft.
One little problem–which I’d been anticipating–is that the novella is currently a very short novel. And for reasons I mentioned earlier, I’d really like this one to be a true novella. A lot of material will come out as I continue to revise, but the worrisome part is the idea of getting very close–say, down to 42,000 words–and realizing that cutting any more would mean sacrificing elements that truly enrich the experience of the story; I’m hoping it won’t come down to that. (It’s often said that there’s always more you can cut, and it’s true, of course–any novel can be condensed into one sentence, if that’s the only goal–but there comes a point of diminishing returns when you’re trying to create a literary work of art, and not a Cliff’s Notes version of your own book!)
I’m very glad I was able to participate in the Write-a-thon, and hope to do it each summer. I confess I find asking for pledges rather awkward (I suppose everyone does, unless they have oodles of wealthy friends!) but it does feel good to contribute to a worthwhile program. Since I’d just found out about the Write-a-thon shortly before it started, I think I can aspire to do better next year if I have a little more time to tell people about it.
The first draft of the novella is almost complete–I only have a brief passage to add that will bridge to the original ending I’d previously roughed out. Since I’d wanted to get through a solid second draft, I’m not as far along in the project as I’d hoped to be, but the important thing is that the hard part will be finished.
Though there’s no question that the revision process can be just as difficult in its own way, I find that having a complete rough draft of a story–and knowing I’ve recorded everything the muse delivered with the inspiration for the story–is always deeply satisfying. So it may take a couple of additional weeks after the end of the Write-a-thon to get the second draft of this novella ready for sharing, but having the added incentive to finish the story was a big help.
The Write-a-thon has been flying by much too fast. I’m going to have to scramble a bit to catch up to where I wanted to be with the novella. On the plus side, I’ve started to feel excited about how it’s coming together–I think it has the potential to be a very powerful story that’s both moving and thought-provoking.
I find it fascinating that it’s not uncommon for my subconscious mind to put symbolism into my stories that I’m not even aware of until I reread them much later, or until someone points it out. I’ve received comments about how clever the symbolism is in a certain element of a story, and had to agree that it was quite effective, although I hadn’t put any deliberate thought into it–it just came to me that way.
There’s some intriguing symbolism that ties to Egyptian mythology in this novella, and it was completely unintentional on my part. Since I’ve become aware of it, it seems very obvious; I’m curious to see if my beta readers will pick up on it right away . . . But I’d better get back to work on the story, so it will actually be ready to show them at the end of the six weeks! Continue reading
The rest of the additions to the beginning of the novella are complete–I’ve added everything that might belong in the opening of the story, knowing that some of the details may turn out to be mostly for my edification and won’t end up in the final version. I’ve also started entering the edits I’ve been doing on the original draft.
Though I do a lot of revision on the screen, at some point with every manuscript I print a hard copy and make edits in pencil as I read it through. I was anticipating seeing the word count start to go down, but so far most of the changes have involved rewording as much as cutting. Since I still have half a dozen pages or so to write at the end, I’m a little concerned about going over the 40,000 word limit for a novella.
From an artist’s point of view it’s frustrating that word counts have become extremely restrictive in traditional publishing venues. Ideally, it should be a matter of using as many–or as few–words as it takes to tell the story. But unless you’re already a well-established author, most agents and publishers won’t even look at a novel under 80,000 words, ostensibly for economic reasons. Continue reading
I’ve finished the opening scene for the novella, but there’s another ‘interlude’ between that scene and the point where the original draft started. I’m currently debating how much I should reveal about what the character’s experiencing, and how aware she is of what’s going on around her . . . In any case, I’ve added eight pages so far, and a lot of it may get cut out (which is how it usually works!). And I’m happy that I ended up with a little homage to Ray Bradbury in the opening scene, including a quote from The Martian Chronicles.
I’ve decided that my ‘thank you gifts’ for Write-a-thon pledges will be weekly excerpts from the novella in progress for anyone who donates $5 or more, and a copy of my published short story, “The Memory of Trees” for anyone who donates $10 or more. (So far I have one nice pledge, but from someone who already gets to see everything I write . . . !) And I’m still spending way too much time picking over this website and trying to learn how to do things in WordPress . . .
I think I should have included getting this website set up as one of my goals for the Write-a-thon, as I’ve probably spent more time on it this week than on writing my novella. Just getting this site to look more or less how I want it has taken a lot of trial and error. And after trying half a dozen plug-ins for fonts, I still don’t have anything that really works; I’m surprised that the ability to choose any font you want for any part of a website isn’t just a standard feature of any site building application, but evidently it’s more complicated than it seems.
But I did get some work in on the opening scene of the novella. I think most writers agree that beginnings and endings are the hardest; for me, endings aren’t usually so troublesome, but beginnings can definitely be a challenge to get right. In this story, I needed to add quite a bit more to the rough, dream-like opening I’d previously written, because it’s necessary to create a clear sense of the protagonist’s world and her life in order for what happens to her to have the appropriate impact. It’s not the kind of thing where I can weave in that information as the story goes along; if the reader doesn’t know who she was before, the shock and confusion she’s feeling is not going to be understood. The tricky thing is to do this without taking too long to get to the ‘meat’ of the story . . .
A couple of years ago a friend offered to build a website for me, but, as so often happens, we both got busy with other things and it never happened. Because I’m participating in this summer’s Clarion West Write-a-thon, and I wanted a venue to post updates on my progress, I decided it was time to put something together. For now it’s a fairly rudimentary version of the site, functioning primarily as my Write-a-thon blog.
I’ve heard great things about the Clarion workshops for years, and some of my favorite authors have been involved with them. The Write-a-thon is a kind of ‘shadow workshop’ to encourage writers to challenge themselves to accomplish their writing goals during the same six-week period as the actual workshop, and it’s also a fundraiser for the program. To donate–or just to see what it’s all about–please visit the Clarion West site.