July 31, 2009


I've been working steadily away at my novel with a daily word count I record scrupulously (okay, obsessively) in a spreadsheet that I find endlessly encouraging as I watch the totals creep up. When I passed the 280-page mark a few days ago I was positively triumphant. After all, 280 is so very close to 300, and 300 is the number I've been carrying around in my head as the one to aim for. 300 pages is a novel, no doubt about it.

Of course, 300 pages or 100,000 words does not automatically give you a novel. I know that. But I had the idea that once I had a sizeable draft and had more or less wrapped up the story, I could go back and tweak things and put things in the right order and edit to my liking and I would have a draft that could at least be worked on and possibly even read by other people.

And so, over the past week, seeing how close I was getting to this magical number, I started readying the manuscript by putting sections in order, so that I could more easily see what was missing and what still needed to be put in. And --- long story short (I know, too late!) --- I realized I have to cut 52 pages.

These 52 pages belong to a secondary narration I'd added in at a late stage, hoping to prevent reader exhaustion with my protagonist, who narrates in present tense. But I see now all his narration was doing was staving off my own exhaustion at the time, as I tried to keep up my word quota in spite of feeling, at that time, a bit directionless. Reading over these 52 pages, I think I only really nail his voice in a few sections, perhaps 5 or 6 pages total. And the whole sideline I got caught up in with his character is both highly improbable and impossible to resolve. So.

It's time to cut.

Given how many problems this will solve, I should be happy. But it's impossible to not feel a little gloomy about all those wasted pages.


Jonathan Ball said...

I woke up this morning with the realization that I need to cut an 8-page section from The Crow Murders, so although it's not as great, I feel your pain.

saleema said...

Thanks! Here's hoping our pain is just a precursor to feeling lighter after losing the extra baggage! I'd almost always rather cut and rewrite over having to try and edit sections that just aren't working.