The End; or Finish What You Started

(This posting originally appeared on The Melt-Ink Pot)

Last Saturday, I completed the first draft of my work in progress, The Daughters of August Winterbourne. It’s always a strange feeling for me, finishing a book. For some reason, the endings almost always creep up on me unexpectedly. In this case, I was pretty sure I had another chapter or two to go, and that it would take me another day or two to get there. That’s because, while I knew where the story ended, I didn’t know for sure where I would stop telling it.

Does that make sense?

I knew, plotwise, what I needed to accomplish. But what I hadn’t yet worked out in my mind was a good, satisfying place to stop once I’d gotten those plot points down. I could easily have spent another chapter or two detailing what happens after Our Heroine, Celia Winterbourne, and her party return to England after adventures abroad. There were certainly consequences aplenty to face as a result of their adventures. And yet, that seemed to draw focus away from where I really wanted to leave the story. So in the end, I summarized everything between the return to England and the end of the school year in a short epilogue, and then ended on a bittersweet, wordless exchange between Celia and Nicholas Fletcher.

I knew I’d found the right spot when I typed the last line and got all teary-eyed. Yeah. That’s a good spot. It felt right, and it felt final. “The End” would flash on the screen at that point in the movie version. Yup. Done.

Then on Sunday, for the first time since about the second week in November (when it was much shorter), I read the whole thing through from start to finish. I was surprised that the bits that felt slow and draggy when I was writing them didn’t seem nearly so slow and draggy upon reading. Yes, there’s still some tightening up to do, and a couple of minor subplots I’m planning to yank out on the first major revision pass, but for the most part, the story holds together reasonably well. Overall, I’m pleased with it.

So that’s the good news.

The bad news is that the first draft weighs in at roughly 186,000 words; in other words, about 86,000 words longer than it should be if I have any expectation of publishing the story. It looks as though I will need to lose more than one or two minor subplots, and I’m gonna need to do a LOT of tightening up. There are some places where I think I can do this; I go into far more detail than is needed about a lot of things. But just as you shouldn’t carve a turkey the instant you pull it from the oven, you should also let a story rest a bit before you go about hacking it into bits. So at this point, while I am giving it a quick once-over before sending it off to my alpha readers* (they’re an impatient lot, and really wanted to read it before it was even finished), I’m otherwise not planning on touching or even looking at this story for another month, maybe two.

What am I going to do with myself in the meantime? Trust me, I won’t be bored. I have some extensive edits to do on the first volume of my space pirate adventure series. I’ve also got a Regency romance that needs to be pared down a bit (why does it seem as though everything I write comes out at approximately 200K words?). And I’ve got the beginnings of a fantasy story that I want to post to my website as I write it, as an experiment. Website, you say? Oh, yeah, that’s something else I can work on.

And of course, I’ll be posting here every Thursday, sharing my words of wisdom/incoherent blatherings with all of you. Maybe next week we’ll even get that “topic of the week” thing going, like we’ve been planning!

* If you wish to join the ranks of my eager alpha readers, drop me a comment and I will add you to the list.

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About sheilamcclune

Aspiring author, sharing the tidbits I've learned along the way.
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2 Responses to The End; or Finish What You Started

  1. Colleen M. says:

    You could take the book and make it a trilogy – give each sister her story with an over all arc (there are 3 sister's right? -I'm a bad crit partner for not paying attention!!) But I've heard more than one agent/editor mention how they like trilogys…and since steam-punk is all the rage right now that might bode well for you – However you decide to do it I'm VERY proud of you!!! If you can get 186,000 words done in 4 months I can get 40,000 done by October!

  2. Sheila says:

    Well, this is already scheduled to be the first book in a trilogy, so having three three-book trilogies is probably not my best strategy ever.I'll take a stab at editing it down, because I know there's a lot of meandering that happens, especially in the first half. I can probably tighten up the end, too — I don't really need to take quite so long getting them from eastern Europe back to Oxford.And I currently have four girls in the story, down from the original five I'd proposed, just because I couldn't come up with a distinct fifth personality, and because it made story logistics easier in so many ways.But I'm still patting myself on the back for at least coming in 100K *shorter* than last year's behemoth. It's progress in the right direction, at least! :)

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