(This posting originally appeared on The Melt-Ink Pot)
I have a confession to make.
I’ve really been struggling with my current WIP, the second book of the “Daughters of August Winterbourne” series. It’s not that I wasn’t enjoying writing the story, because I was. But before I’d started, I’d put together a rough outline of things I thought ought to happen in the book. And after three months and almost 90,000 words, I was only about a third of the way through my outline. Which meant that the finished product was headed for…way too long.
On top of which, at about 75,000 words, one of my characters did something unexpected but perfectly logical. But it was also something that was sure to add a good 20,000 to the word count.
That was when work on the piece slowed to a crawl. Inner Editor was making loud growly noises and refused to shut up about it. “Why are you writing this scene? You’ll just have to cut it out later anyway,” she kept saying.
Then, one night earlier this week, as I was driving home from work, I was pondering the new developments in the plot, and trying to figure out what I could cut out and still have the story make sense. And I realized that the new plot twist I had added had changed the dynamic of the story, creating an arc that could be resolved nicely at a point about halfway through the outline I had originally laid out. And that what was left after that would make a nice story on its own.
In other words, the story had just neatly divided itself in half. And when I looked at the plot arc for each was much neater, cleaner, and more interesting, and allowed for some development of key characters and their relationships.
Well, then. My neat, tidy trilogy just grew into a four book series. I suppose worse things have happened.
(Note that I felt somewhat better about this revelation when, at a convention this weekend, a published author admitted to having had the same thing happen to her.)
So how do other people to tell what makes a book a good complete story?