Monday, April 18, 2005

Once More Into the Breach

Well, the manuscript for Shadows of Memory has officially been read and commented on by my agent, and he says I need to do some more chopping to tighten up the storyline and reduce the word count. He says that word count is becoming more and more of an issue with publishers, and I can certainly see where this would be true with all the trouble the fiction market has had over this past couple of years. Sometimes it leaves me feeling as though I finally managed to walk through the right door at the wrong time, but I guess this, too, shall pass. Sooner or later, a publisher is bound to agree that it's my turn. Anyway, after looking into the situation for the past few days, I have now come to the following conclusions about the unexpected revision.

Bob's right that the storyline needed to be tightened. I mean--I actually went through and jerked several scenes completely out and ditched parts of others, and I've already got the thing reduced by 10,000 words. Then I started moving things around and changing the order of some scenes, rethinking others and weaving things more tightly together, and I think I've come up with a sequence of scenes that will send the plot off like a rocket. I did some studying to refresh my memory on the plotting devices of Three Act Structure, Inciting Incident, Rising Action, etc. I've always been more of an organic writer, and that's how I wrote Aspects of Illusion, but now with the next two books of the trilogy, I find I can't escape the need to plot with a great deal more deliberation. I'm not sure what the final word count of Shadows will be, but it will be shorter than that of Aspects. However, that also worries me.

Aspects of Illusion ended up at a bit under 150,000 words, so I read through it again last night to see what scenes if any I could cut from it if I needed to. With the exception of a bath for one character and one particular set piece in chapter one which we'd already debated ditching once before, I just can't find any scenes in Aspects that could be ditched without messing up the plot. Every scene is tight, fairly short, and from what I can see, vital to the plot. That whole huge book is so tight it has a snuggie, and I can't imagine what I'll do if I'm asked to cut it as well. With Shadows, yeah, I've managed to cut it and I'm actually LOVING the results. But with Aspects...I see disaster if I have to cut it. And I'm not particularly delighted at the idea of the two books being so dissimilar in finished length. I wanted each one to have a roughly 150,000-word ceiling, and now that ceiling's looking more like 125,000. I'm short already, but I feel like ducking! My new goal in life is to write such *** kicking books that after this first trilogy comes out, no one will ever question my word length again. Yep. That'll be happening....

The great news is that Bob likes the book in general. It seems that my characters are believable, their plot arcs are convincing, there were some parts he flat-out loved, and my pages turned quickly even though the storyline was still a bit loose. I can definitely live with that sort of news, and I don't even mind the chance to revise this thing just one more time--not if it makes it a book an editor can't put down. Yahoo! My plot officially doesn't suck! Can't complain about that, especially for what is intended to be the second book of a trilogy.

It also doesn't suck to have an agent who always seems to say the right thing at exactly the right time. I can take any critcism as long as it's constructive, and I am definitely not opposed to the method of hearing the criticisms first and the praise second. It's kind of like a game of good cop, bad cop, but all coming from the same person. And it works.

Validation is a beautiful thing.

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