Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Writing to a target

by Rick Blechta

I’ve been working on my next fictional foray for far too long now. Yeah, there are some excellent extenuating circumstances involved, but the fact is I really want to get on with this, get to the end of the novel and then sit back and see what I’ve got.

Several years ago while in Italy scouting locations for my most recently published full-length novel, Roses for a Diva, I saw Michelangelo’s final (unfinished) works, the Florentine Pietà. Everything is roughed out fairly well (the figure of Christ seems to be nearly finished), but the work is not by any means completed.

This is the way I now view a completed first draft. Everything is there (generally) but it’s all very coarse. Those polishing edits are still very much needed.

I want to get to that point with my current ms!

Thing is I’m also laying the foundation for a (hoped for) series and there’s a lot of spadework involved to set things up properly. There are very few relationships that are ongoing at the beginning of the story — especially between the two protagonists. So I have to include a good dose of context and information.

What I realize now is that I’m faced with having a novel that could be too long for most publishers. Working on my side: it’s a thriller (which tend to be longer than most crime novels), plus it’s a political thriller (allowed to be even longer it seems). Working against me: I don’t see how I can tell my story in fewer than 100,000 words.

All that being said, the editing process allows me the opportunity to whittle things down, chip away at my “sculpture”, polishing and refining it in much the same way Michelangelo would have done had he finished his work. I’d prefer to keep my ms to 100,000 words more or less, but at the rate I’m piling up the verbiage, that could become a tall order to tell my story effectively.

Time will tell.

Does anyone else out there have trouble keeping their mss to an appropriate length for publishing norms or am I a (verbose) exception?

For readers, do you have problems with longer novels or does good quality writing — something that’s first and foremost in my mind, believe me — enough to keep you going in longer stories?

Interesting sidebar: You'll notice the older man holding up the body of Christ in the sculpture. That’s Michelangelo who included himself in the work. So we have a very clear idea of what this famous artist looked like at the end of his life.


Sybil Johnson said...

I'm the kind of writer that writes short. While others have to trim words to meet a specific word count, I have to add. I don't care how long a story is as long as it's interesting to me.

Rick Blechta said...

Thanks, Sybil. I sure wish I had your problem!

Sybil Johnson said...

I'm not sure my problem is the best one to have! I don't know if it's easier to add or subtract.

Rick Blechta said...

My problem is definitely the opposite!

And in my experience, certainly easier to add than to subtract. I usually have a stockpile of deleted scenes at the end of every novel anyway.

Marianne Wheelaghan said...

I always write more words than I need. Like Dorothy Parker, "I can’t write five words but that I can change seven” or Hemingway, who rewrote the last page of Farewell to Arms 39 times before he was satisfied he'd got the words right. In my opinion "Getting the words right", regardless of how many, or how few, there are is pure sweat and toil! Onwards!