Nature vs. Editing

The “Law of of Finding More To Say” dictates that, for every new section of text an author write, be that a paragraph, a chapter, or even a whole novel, that section is likely to be longer than the section that preceded it. You see it all the time in fantasy: the first book is a short, spindly thing that you could actually roll up and use to swat a spider, but each successive sequel gets longer and longer until, by the end, even the people making the movie find they need to split the last book up into two parts. It’s a fact. It’s natural law, like gravity. It takes a lot of effort to break natural law. With gravity, you need to design and engineer the space program; with fiction, you need to spend the rest of you life editing.

Remember how I told you last week that I expected to be working on chapter 2 by now? Yeah, that didn’t quite happen. Turns out, there was a lot I needed to get straight in chapter 1 before I could consider the first draft of it to be good and finished. Chapter 1 is so very important in a sequel. You need to spend time reminding everyone what happened in book 1, give people who didn’t read book 1 a chance to get caught up, and then, on top of all that re-hashing, you need to hook people into chapter 2. It’s a bit of a challenge, and it’s taken time to get the various pieces in an order that makes them look like they belong together.

Anyway, I feel I met the challenge yesterday, and I finished off the first full draft of chapter 1. I know I’m finished because, for the first time, I got that buzz. You know, the one that only shows its face after you’ve writen a paragraph or two that really makes you feel something. It was great.

Then, with all that elation hanging over me, I took a look at the word count.

Crap.

So, here’s the breakdown of the first book. You can see that, even here, the Law of Finding More To Say was in full effect; the chapters toward the end are longer than the chapters at the beginning. It all led up to a book that was actually quite long, but just reasonable enough to put into print form without creating a new paper-based singularity. It went something like this:

  • Chapter 1: 7,511 words
  • Chapter 2: 11,228 words
  • Chapter 3: 7,476 words
  • Chapter 4: 5,451 words
  • Chapter 5: 6,843 words
  • Chapter 6: 12,759 words
  • Chapter 7: 6,930 words
  • Chapter 8: 8,015 words
  • Chapter 9: 12,220 words
  • Chapter 10: 2,449 words
  • Chapter 11: 6,444 words
  • Chapter 12: 17,027 words
  • Chapter 13: 17,087 words
  • Chapter 14: 12,540 words
  • Chapter 15: 14,416 words
  • Chapter 16: 9,468 words
  • Chapter 17: 14,495 words
  • Chapter 18: 7,904 words
  • Chapter 19: 9,863 words
  • Chapter 20: 11,109 words
  • Chapter 21: 19,366 words
  • Epilogue: 4,841 words

Now, for the word count of my newest chapter. You ready?
You sure?

  • Chapter 1: 19,090 words

It’s almost as long as the lengthiest chapter of the first book, and it’s only the first chapter!

Needless to say, this has led to the revisiting of a few basic concepts concerning the plot outline of book 2. Is it too long? Is it structured properly? Maybe I need to split it into two books? If I split it, would the resulting books be long enough?

Et cetera.

It might all end up being a bunch of navel-gazing in the end, but it’s something that needs to be looked at closely and severely before I can move forward. In either case, I expect chapter 2 (which might end up being chapter 3 if I end up deciding 19 thousand words is just too long for a first chapter) to be well on its way, come Monday.

Oh, and users of Goodreads should find another giveaway happening this weekend. Enjoy!

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