Floating & Taping the Ms

Today I will complete the major revisions of the novel. The big reveal scares me, especially since I’m not sure yet how big the finish will be. I don’t like forced excitement in a book. Like gratuitous sex, a drum roll on the last two pages might be a little too artsy. But I’ll know it when I see it. I hope.

Next comes the writing equivalent of floating and taping now that the walls are up. As I worked on the major revisions, I have kept a running tally of the word count in each chapter. (Thank you word processor gods who send a cherub with a PhD in accounting into my computer to count words, even characters. I remember when a word count was as time consuming and mathematical as understanding quantum physics–count the words on a full line, count lines on a page, multiply by full pages and throw in a few extra for the partial pages, etc.) I’m a little short. (Well, not really, I’m average height, but the word count is low.)

My average chapter runs about 2000-3000 words. But when I look at my totals, I see maybe five or six chapters are half that length. This warns me to look again and see if this scarcity of words means that there are thin places in the fabric of the story, moth holes in the ms. Having written poetry for so many years, I tend to compress, to tear down when I should build. And there is the publication tradition that calls for a novel to be at least 60,000 words. Pandering to the market, or smart business sense? Two sides of a wall. I will likely reach that goal–I’m already at 55,000–without watering down the writing. And hope to find places where the story takes on texture and depth, not just wordy, moth-eaten old shirts and flimsy underwear, the battered baggage of desperation. See you next week.

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