Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Half way done with the read-through

On a page-count basis, I passed the half-way point of the typescript this morning. (Let's call this process the read through--marking up the paper copy, making obvious line edits and working on the 3 big problems I identified at the beginning: developing one character, developing one plot point earlier in the book, and making big decisions about what to cut. I won't really consider this draft complete until I come back around and make all these changes on the computer file.)

On a chapter-count basis, I finished 7 out of 16 this morning. (The earlier chapters are longer.) That's in 8 week days/working days. Or a week-and-a-half in actual time. So if I pack some of the late shorter chapters into one day, I'm on track for 3 weeks for this aspect of the work, like I was hoping. Another 3 weeks to make the changes on the computer, and I'm ahead of my goal to finish the draft by the end of this semester. Maybe by April 1.

Page count trend--It's hard to estimate on the marked up printed copy, but I think based on what I've X'd out so far that I'm trending to knock 130 pages off the original 540 to get down to 410, which still gets me down in the range of 330-350 pp. in print form.

Even though I'm obsessively counting up the pages I cut, I'm trying hard not to feel like it has to be down to a certain length. I try to keep reminding myself that it should be the length that the story warrants, which possibly could be longer. I'm cutting stuff that isn't supporting the present action of my story and moving it forward, but if the present action adds up to a lot, that might still be OK. How far can it wander off from the central story for color and context to amuse the reader without annoying them? That's what I'm struggling with when I resist cutting something.

I took some time last week to open up to the last page of dozens of novels and see how long they were, and was satisfied that an awful lot of 350-page novels have found readers in the past. Those novels were rarely the biography of one character and more often the tale of one or more sprawling clan of quirky characters entangled with one another. But 350 is a good goal for this draft for sure and maybe an OK goal over all.

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