Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A "Traditionally Built" story

I did a word count check on WILLA yesterday, my first, and was surprised to find I've already written 10,000 words. I've only written 3-4 chapters (haven't decided yet on where I'm making the break between 3 and 4, but likely I have four chapters done). Seems like after 10K words I should be deeper into the story than I am. But why am I surprised? My first few drafts are always hugely overwritten. I tried to keep things lean this time, and even so... I guess it's just how I work. But seeing so many words when I already (yes, already!) feel the straight-jacket of a 120K word count looming, there's a little panicked voice in my head saying how can I possibly squeeze a whole "traditionally built"* story into a tiny size 6 corset?

And then, thankfully, I read posts like Patti Hill's at Novel Matters, giving me permission, at least on this first draft, to play. To let my story be as traditionally built as it wants to be, to run and leap and lounge about and eat all the donuts in sight.

We can go on a diet later, yes?

*My thanks to Alexander McCall Smith, author of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books, for coining this wonderful term.

Post Scriptum: I've changed the title of this blog to better represent my writing work in total. I'm calling it PAST PERFECT. Not that I think the past was perfect... nor my writing about it. The one I can work on, with perfecting my writing and storytelling craft always the goal. The other, well... the past isn't changing, but I can imagine what might have been. :-)


  1. A fine start! My kind of story, by the way. I think Lael and Willa would be good friends:)

  2. Thanks, Laura. I'm sure they would! And also Lily, Seona's mother. Don't you wish we could somehow get them all together?

    I have just a couple chapters left to go on TFD. Oh boy!

  3. I have the opposite problem. I have to go back through and 'layer' as they say. My word count is usually about 5K short. It seems to be a common problem one way or the other. But, if you give yourself permission to 'play' then you can reevaluate the MS as a whole and have a much better idea of what you need and what you don't. Then you won't lose anything critical in your quest to tighten the belt!

    Love the line about the goat's eyes, BTW. I love a good observation, and ya know, they have funny eyes. :-)


  4. I suspect Willa is a woman of great inner strength, which she has yet to realize.

    I like your new blog title, Lori. :-)

  5. Maisey, I've noticed too that writers do tend to have one or the other difficulty. I've always written long, way back to the days of book reports and term papers. It's so ingrained that fighting it the first go-round is counterproductive.

    As for those goat eyes, I probably spent an hour playing around with just how to describe them!

  6. Thank you, Sallie! I've already come to love Willa... and the two men in her life. :)