Monday, March 9, 2015

Don't get bogged down in word count!!

Writers' Group was yesterday, and as per usual, it was great and awesome. For once, WIP-feedback was both gratifying and greatly needed (on my part). I was feeling really stuck and couldn't figure out where I wanted (or needed) Cassidy to go. If a book is a ski hill, I felt like I was standing on the top of the mountain where the bottom of the mountain is the reveal/climax/what have you. (I realize this is the opposite of the imagery we were taught in high school. Go with it.) Once I start sliding down that hill, the descent will be fast and blurry and kept in line with only a minimum amount of control.

And I was (/am) at only ~30k words.

My initial goal for my second draft was between 75 and 80k. My first draft was almost exactly 50, it being NaNoWriMo and all. I was baffled: how could my second draft be so much shorter

Of course, to answer that would be begging the question. There is no proof that my second draft will be shorter than my first draft. I can’t know that until it’s finished.

Secondly, if my second draft is shorter than my first draft, there are a lot of things I’ve left out of my second draft that I intend to go back through and re-insert: for example, worldbuilding; fleshing out her “missing year”; mood setting; a few other things. Referring to things like that, I’ve come up with my own personal hashtag: #ThirdDraftProblems. I’m super douchey about it, too. I do the Jimmy Fallon hashtag gesture and everything.

But even so—even though I know I’m leaving things out—I am still feeling paralyzed because I feel like I’m zeroing in on the end too fast. And this is not a problem I should concern myself with. Why? Thanks for asking!

They say you shouldn’t include anything in your story that doesn’t contribute to the development of the plot, the world, the character, or some combination of the three, and I strongly agree. That being said, there is probably an infinite amount of things that do contribute to the story that we choose to leave out when constructing our first, or second-first, drafts. If it ends up being short, then it probably feels short, and you’re missing the opportunity to fully flesh out your character or your world or sometimes, even the plot. There are things that you can include to make everything feel more rounded and complete. For example, in my first-first draft, I had a scene where Cassidy talks to some baristas at a coffee shop which had resisted the tide of franchise coffee shops that had swept the nation. They were insufferable hipsters, which was fun to write—but more fun was realizing that, due to the nature of her memory loss, Cassidy didn’t know how coffee was made. One of the baristas made reference to ‘slingin’ bean juice.’ After that point, Cassidy assumes that coffee is, literally, coffee bean juice, and wonders how one juices a bean.

That scene didn’t have an encore in my second-first draft, but I still love it. I want to include it, if I can. I’ve even invented the café where it would take place. But I have a feeling that, this time around, it may not make it in.

Unless the story needs lengthening. Or even rearranging, or whatever.

I realized something else at Writers’ Group that I had been honestly ignorant of until then. I’d written my first-first draft with an eye to snarky humor: serious story but told with a humorous voice, like Gun, With Occasional Music. This time around, though, I haven’t been doing that nearly as much. There are funny moments, but I haven’t done nearly the number of similes that one associates with the noir genre as I did in Cassidy0.

(<Aside> I just wrote Cassidy0, or “Cassidy prime” for you non-math-nerds out there, because I got sick of saying first-first draft. From now on, first-first draft will be Cassidy0 and second-first draft will be Cassidy1. No, it’s not easier to type, but it makes me happy. So there. </Aside>)

I asked my friends, as we were nearing the end of the discussion, “So okay, is it funny?” and everyone’s face sorta fell and they looked uncertain, and I immediately went over my writing in my head and realized... it really isn’t funny. As I said before, there are individual scenes or lines that are funny, but by and large the situation isn’t funny, the dialogue isn’t funny very often, and even Cassidy’s internal monologue usually isn’t funny. That actually makes me a little sad. I like the noir humor; it’s part of why I wanted to write a noir novel to begin with. Plus, I do feel like the noir humor is part of what makes the genre what it is; without that, it’s just grit. The humor is what shines a little light into the darkness against which our noir hero battles. I mean, the very word “noir” simply means “black.” We need to lighten it up, don’t we?

I’m going to file that under #ThirdDraftProblems.

Word Count: 29,449 (猉)

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