Thursday, September 22, 2005

Style and Stuff

Tell me, does your style change according to subject?
Does it become more bulimic in some forms and more skeletal in others?
In narrative fiction I tend to write lean. Very lean. Lean as winter.
I demi-plie with plot; I don't do mirrors, infinitudes of rich and resonant description, or excessive heavy breathing between characters.

Imagine my horror on discovering the word count thingy in Tools, and found my ms clocked in at over 100,000 words, heading for 110,000 in fact.
Gad, sir.
I reviewed the text. Couldn't find much in the way of expostil....exposit...oh, hell, purple prose passages to eliminate. Not much in the way of "my precious" to glue a ruthless finger to the delete button.
Muttering, I sulked.
Then the light came on. It appears I have not one novel, but two. About one and one half to be more precise.
Which presents a different set of questions.
Is around 70,000 words too short? Should the text be fattened and fleshed with rolls of more heavy breathing, or more luxuriant settings? Dump the main character into yet more difficulties, angst, and personal revelations? Huh? Not if she's a mature character who knows her dark side, not some sweet young thing on self-discovery.
Would cutting the pixils off at the pass ambush the reader? Can you leave a few minor threads hanging without looking sloppy as if you hadn't checked your hem before going out the door?
Only if you write a series, I suspect. I may have pushed myself out of a single title.
Has anyone else had these problems?


Anonymous said...


The first thing I would check is your word count as editors think of word count. There are some formulas to follow. The one which I do is: using courier new 12 font and double spaced pages, assume 250 words per page. The reason for this rule is that blank space is also taken into account, and blank space eats paper, which eats the publisher's money. If you format using my assumption, you should be shooting for a 400 page novel to hit 100,000 words. I think the normal range for a first novel is 80,000 to 120,000 words. Hope this helps.

Sela Carsen said...

I'm always amazed at people who can write so much. I think lean is too round a word for my writing (I struggle to reach 100 pages), so if you've essentially written two novels, my hat's off!

As to your problem, you can probably find places to play with words, feed the reader's senses, flesh out scenes. Good luck!

Bernita said...

Thank you, Jason. Though I used Roman New, that would bring it down to about 92,000 I think. The last thing I want is some agent/editor to see the count and automatically think that there is bound to be lots of excess to cut.

Sela, you couldn't be more surprised than I at the quantity, because I didn't burble on, entranced by my own prose.

Robyn said...

If you write lean, I must write skeletal. I have to force myself to put in description- I like action! Don't care if the sky's blue or there's doilies on the antique table, what's she up to?Why is he here? Tell me and tell me now!

Bernita said...

Maybe that's my trouble, she said mournfully, maybe I've got too much action.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

No!!!!Don't take out the action; that's what makes for good reading.(I'm an action person also!) I'd leave it all in if I were you and let the editor decide. Who knows! They may like it as is. Don't second guess yourself!

Chemical Billy said...

I second Bonnie, second-guessing is death. I say this struggling to top 60,000 on my MS, but it's death, larding my book with gratuitous description will kill it as surely as hacking limbs will kill yours.

Just make it good, let the rest sort itself out.

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