Dive! Dive! Drop That Word Count!

This weekend was busy as hell — among other things we had to finish insulating the kitchen ceiling. Three micro-centuries in a Tyvek bunny suit working over my head. Yay. But as you can see, it really needed to be done:

Contrast the uninsulated kitchen area (left) to the well-insulated mud room (right)
View from my office window

I had expected to be trying to steal time this weekend to work on NaNoWriMo. Instead I had a flash of insight on The Body and the Bomb, courtesy of two insightful comments by Marko and Bill, and I was off to the races. Specifically, Bill had objected that I had set it up so that Nouri, who otherwise is very competent, looked as if she’d screwed up big time in an uncharacteristic way. Then Marko separately suggested that there’s not much of a dynamic between Crandall and Nouri, that there needs to be some sort of tension. Ah hah. Now that’s very interesting. Moral of the story is: the author’s job is not to be nice or fair to the characters. (Also: good beta readers make you look smarter than you are)

End result: at the end of the weekend I had a MUCH better story. I even killed a few hoary old darlings that had been undermining the structure, and I’m starting to really understand the point of that advice. Once you have a line or two that you just love, you start warping the plot around it. It’s like that giant rock in the basement that the builders just built around — they make a couple minor changes to the building plan right there, and that in turn necessitates other changes, and those engender still more, and oh my god, this house is going to burn down while we sleep. *sob*

I also rearranged damn near everything (Thanks, Scrivener!) and broke up the first scene to sprinkle bits of it in later. It works a lot better, I think, reflects the new logic of the investigation. This much-better story, though, bloated up to 8,000 words. The feedback I’ve consistently gotten is that this story really wants to be more like 6,000. The new subplot might deserve another 500 on top of that, but surely not 2,00o words!

So, in the opposite of the spirit of NaNoWriMo, I need to edit this puppy down. (What NaNoWriMo giveth, NaNoEdMo taketh away?) My goal is to cut at least a thousand words this week while I iron out the continuity errors I introduced by moving scenes around.

Now, there’s plenty of savings to be had just going through and omitting needless words. That’s slow going, though, and somewhat pointless: all it takes is reworking one sentence-that-goes-clunk in a verbose way, and the gains are reversed. I really need to be spending time figuring out what chunks are needed and what aren’t. In this story, that means that I really need to be cutting dialogue, as it is very heavy that way already. In the process of so doing, I’m finding a lot of redundancy. I think I’ve cut most of the superficial stuff; from now on if I want that word count to drop I need to start cutting closer to the bone.

cat in a construction zone, staring intently
Gravity's Little Helper says, "Stop blogging and get back to work!"

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