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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

DOING BATTLE WITH WORDS

Wall painting on tomb believed to be King Philip's, at Vergina, Greece



I'm doing battle with words right now.  My first gruelling session left me feeling totally depressed and worn out.  Having to chop so many words from the text of "Shadow of the Lion" is not only discouraging but, after having spent so many long hours writing the story, it is a painful exercise.  But, it must be done!

By the end of the first 'battle' I was so depressed I was even having nightmares about it.  So for now I have backed off and I'm planning new strategies for the second attack.  I will eventually have a professional editor take over, but for now if I have to kill my babies I'll do it myself no matter how it wrenches at my soul to do so. 

Yes, there are passages that were part of my character development and probably don't need to be there.  Many of them I have already cut only to realize that the word count was barely going down and after all that work I had only destroyed 156 pages!  Now I am taking a much closer look:  asking myself if the scene is absolutely necessary to keep the story rolling and the tension building.  I've also cut some points of view, and a lot of places where characters were reminiscing about things.

There are certain things I won't cut:  both my critique readers and others in my workshop group have said "don't cut the elephants".  I also want to keep the women's voices strong.  And there are a couple of major characters (generals and the Persian court advisor) as well as the villain who must stay.  The story is also about Alexander's young son, Iskander, who was his only legal heir so it is important, especially in the later part of the novel, that he has a strong voice. (I decided to cut some of his points of view when he is little). 

I always wanted to pitch the story to a main-stream publisher but now I realize that to do so I'd have to cut 3/4 of the story and that simply won't work.  So my alternative is to look into self-publishing.   For one thing, I don't have years to wait and neither does the story. It needs to be out there now, because much of the theme pertains to situations in the world today. 

So I will rally the 'troops' and forge onward.  After all, this is the story about a famous conqueror and his generals.  Of course, they managed to bring Alexander's dynasty down in the end.  But I won't let them bring "Shadow" down too.  Somehow I will find a way to cut enough of the text not to spoil what is an important and exciting story!



4 comments:

Sally Charette said...

Thanks for this missive from the trenches. You're doing the heroic work now.

I just read a 950+ page novel by John Sayles (A Moment in the Sun) that I loved. My mother's now flying through it. Anything is possible. It was published by McSweeney's.

Wynn Bexton said...

Thanks for your supportive comments, Sally. Yes when I spoke to Margaret George (who writes very lengthy novels) at the Surrey Writer's Conference, she said 'don't worry about word length'. However, both agents told me they won't look at more than 120,000 wds. I guess if you are an already published novelist you can get away with more (such as Diane Gabaldon). Anyway I'll do my best to get the novel down to a 'reasonable' length without trashing it. NO, I won't do that! That would be the same as surrendering!

Debra Young said...

Now that NaNo's done for me, I'm getting back to writing A Lamentation of Swans, down in the trenches trying to excavate the words!

Whichever way yo go with it, I wish you great success with Shadow of the Lion. d:)

Wynn Bexton said...

Thanks Debra, I am going through it once more then turning it over to a pro editors. But meanwhile I am leaning heavily toward publishing thru Lulu or one of the other on-line (accredited) publishers who will do ebooks and put it on Amazon. This way I won't have to worry about word length, just pages. I have been doing some research and if I go thru a regular publisher it may take YEARS and even the local small presses (who still require less words) it takes up to 3 years. I can't wait that long. This book needs to be out right now because it is pertinet also to today's world. Nevertheless, I'll make sure it's in 'perfect' shape before I do so.