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April 25, 2011

Is your writing overblown and verbose...or succinct to the point of being scanty?

I'm pretty sure nobody's going to admit to being overblown OR verbose. And let's face it, word limits touted by many publishers for their new acquisitions have a great deal more to do with the commercial realities of the industry than they do with reader preferences or literary quality.

Still - there are those of us who write long, and those who write short. And those who despite the best of intentions, and a wonderful art display on their hospital wall (forgive the poor quality iPhone picture)

...don't write very much of anything at all. (Any NaNoWriMo participant worth their salt would be horrified by my less-than-stellar writing progress this month. On the other hand I've completed some beautiful Swarovski crystal, pearl, and sterling silver wire-wrapped jewelry for my friend to wear at her wedding in July. Does that count?)

So...are you the writer who has a completed first draft at 65,000 words and is then faced with the laborious task of going back through and adding more setting description, more deep point of view, more internal monologue, even whole new scenes in subsequent drafts to make the story more meaty? More satisfying? More appropriate to publisher expectation for its market segment/genre/target audience?

Or are you the writer who completes a first draft of 240,000 words, and is faced with the task of slowly, painfully hacking at least half of that away before calling the job done? Whole scenes axed, characters cut from the narrative, subplots sacrificed, description and dialogue and pretty much everything else ruthlessly trimmed, shortened, truncated?

Maybe you're somewhere in between?

I'd be interested to hear from all the plotters and pantsers out there as to whether outlining before you write (or not) makes a difference in helping you come closer to hitting the right balance first time. I'm assuming if you're someone who does outline before writing, word count targets for each section might be part of that?

I write to a very loose outline much of which never makes it out of my head onto paper..so while I follow a sort of plan, I clearly have well developed pantserish tendencies too!

My last novel just seemed to work out to being around the right length, and I'm not sure how, so the question is whether I'll find my current MG novel (only aiming for 35,000 wds) hits that mark too without serious tweaking.

Where do you find yourself when the first draft's done? Are you a cutter or an embellisher? Or if you're someone who actually gets pretty close to a target word count in the first draft, do you have particular ways of making sure that happens? (I mean, rather than relying on a combination of blind luck and some sort of indefinable intuition like I tend to)


Suze said...

Lovely to see you posting, again, my dear. And yes, working on jewelry for a friend's wedding most certainly 'counts.'

As for your questions on word count and method, I have written between 75,000 and 125,000 word novels in the past. I don't do outlines and I've learned not to try to rewrite a novel on top of an existing draft. Templates and rigidity tend to aggravate my particular muse.

Padding writing is the pits since it's hard enough to compete for the mind's attention in this incredibly dense information-rich landscape and having written way too much in the first place is just as problematic. It's that sweet spot that's such a challenge to find. But that's the joy of being a scribe, right? The quest! ;)

Mary Mary said...

I'd say I fall in between. I usually come out close to my target word count (usually somewhere around 10,000 words off). I know I'll go back and flesh out the scenes because when I write that first draft I just want to get the ideas and the scenes out on the paper. I also follow a loose outline (one that is most definitely subject to change as I go along) because I need to know what direction I'm headed in. If I write with no direction, I believe I'd have a train wreck on my hands.

By the way, I love the photo of the fuchsia! They most definitely look like ballerinas!

♥ MM

Jeanne said...

I don't worry about word count until I have much of my draft down. Then I go in and take a word count of each chapter just to keep track. Then I go in for constant editing and word choice and sentence structure. I keep track of word count pretty much throughout the process. But I have to get to a point where I am actually putting it all together and then I seriously examine word count.

M.C. said...

I usually hit right on target. If I don't you could call me an embellisher. I believe this is because when I write a draft, I mostly want to get the skeleton of the story done. Also in the first draft, I'm tired from battling writer's block so I tend to skip juice precision.

Liz said...

Did you see the last draft of my novel? Otherwise, how did you know I only hit 65,000 words and am now trying to get the word count up?

And I am a plotter. But I'm terrible at description, so I guess I have to go back and work on that, too.

Rachael Harrie said...

Such beautiful pictures :) (And don't worry at all about not writing, sometimes our brain needs a complete break. And, I must admit, hospital isn't the most inspiring of surroundings :( )

I completely pantzed my current WIP, and wrote it only having regards to the draft query letter I did beforehand. I have high hopes for outlining my next WIP though :)

My word count was 60,000 when I finished my current YA WIP, and I'm going through expanding right now. I'm very much an underwriter in my first draft, so my challenge now is to not blow my word count out of the water as I add "show not tell", further scenes, etc etc.

Great post Adina, hope you get out of hospital soon :)



erica and christy said...

I haven't done a ton of writing lately either, and I have no excuses and nothing else creative accomplished instead. My first project WAS 116,000 and is now about 60,000. My second story is 3/4 done and is at 30,000. I'm a recovering overwriter. Christy

Deana said...

Well crap, I just wrote a replay and it didn't take:(

I would say I am an embellisher. I write the first draft almost as if it is the outline but a VERY detailed outline I suppose. That allows me to catch my breath and really take it easy, have fun with the editing chapter by chapter.

Su said...

I think you're allowed to take a writing break while in a hospital!

I'm verbose. And when I go back through, I have to fight the embellishing demons so that I can make cuts. My niche audience would be people who love piles of detail, whether or not it advances the plot. :)

Adina West said...

Thanks all for your comments, which pretty much show that approaches to word count are as varied as writers...and apologies for taking so long to acknowledge your comments! The day after I posted, exciting things started happening involving general anaesthesia and more morphine than I'd normally partake of. See next post for details...

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