Tuesday, October 25, 2016

I have a confession to make

by Rick Blechta

Since Vicki featured the second book in her Year Round Christmas series yesterday  (and an interesting discussion it was), I thought I’d give a bit of coverage to my latest novella, Rundown — which, coincidentally has its official release today! In my case, though, I have something to reveal which my readers might find shocking.

There is absolutely no musical component to the plot. No musicians appear in it, are harmed in it, in fact there’s not so much as a drum stick anywhere in the book’s 160 pages, zilch, zippola.

Every single other publication with Rick Blechta on the cover has a main character or two who is a musician or in the music business. Music is always front and centre in my books.

What happened?

It’s nothing as sensational as I’ve sworn off music or that the contract for the book stipulates in paragraph 1: “No music shall appear anywhere in this story.” The lack of music in Rundown has two specific causes — and I should say that it surprised me as much as anybody when it all went down.

First, the book’s contract does say that the ms as delivered by me shall contain between 14,000 and 20,000 words*. While I didn’t obsess about this while writing, I did begin keeping my eye on the word count as I approached the halfway point in the story. Three quarters of the way through, I realized I had a large problem: I wasn’t going to finish the story without going maybe 2000 words over the limit. Not a good thing.

When this came to light, I immediately went back to what I’d already written to look for economies. Were there scenes or plot threads that could be removed. For the plot to be understandable and satisfying, there weren’t, but for some of the character development things there were. Front and centre in that was the “musical thread”. It revolved around the protagonists (Pratt & Ellis) getting into a (sometimes heated) debate on current musical tastes. Pratt loves jazz and Ellis hard rock and grunge (as befits their ages).

After a few hours of cogitation, I realized it all had to go. Yes, it made the characters more defined and real, but it was also a chance for me to grind a few axes on both points (ie: be a bit self-indulgent). The bottom line was that it wasn’t really needed. And while it’s difficult to present well-rounded characters in a constrained setting like this, it is something a writer has to face and make the best of it.

The end result was, I managed to cut out 1500 words of witty repartee. And guess what? With a bit of massaging in other spots, I managed to add a bit of meat to these two characters’ bones in other ways.

The book came in about 100 words over the limit and all of these (and more) were lost in the editing process.

So, today you can order Rundown at all the usual places (or visit your favourite independent bookstore) and you’ll have Blechta’s first music-less publication — which should also make it extremely collectable.

If you’re in Toronto on November 5th from 2-4, you can also drop by Sleuth of Baker Street and purchase a signed copy (which might make the book less collectable), and enjoy a glass of wine and some nice sweet or savoury nummies.

And for those of you who are disappointed over the lack of music in this book, the full-length novel I’m working on will be back to the musical beat — although the protagonist isn’t a full-time musician.


*I’ve often wondered why word counts are always used. I don’t get it. Obviously words are of varying lengths and this makes word counts extremely un-predictive as to the length of a work and how much paper it will take to print it. Computer software such as MS Word — which is nearly ubiquitous in the publishing biz — can count characters just as easily as it counts words (or paragraphs). Wouldn’t it be far more sensible (and accurate) for publishers to stipulate character counts in their contracts?

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