By Sherry Harris in Virginia where summer, judging by the traffic, is in full swing
The writing process continues to amaze and surprise me. I wake some mornings thinking the well is dry and then I go to my computer and words flow out of me. But for some reason when I hit fifty thousand words I feel like I’m done. It happened when I was writing Tagged for Death last summer and it happened again about a week ago. Unfortunately, fifty thousand words does not a novel make.
I know when I reach this point in my first draft, I haven’t written much description. I haven’t grounded the people talking – they are floating heads or talking heads. They don’t move or use their senses. I’ll go back and layer some of that in. But if I make up the whole 20,000 words I still need to write in this manner I’ll have written one terribly boring book.
After a bit of panicking, I turned to the Wickeds. This is what I wrote to them last July:
Well, I decided I’m done, Unfortunately, I only have 50,000 words – so I guess I’m not done. I laid out all my scenes on a calendar today. I have two days near the end of the book where nothing happens. So I hope those two days will take up a lot of the remaining word count. I’ve realized a couple of things. While the yard sale theme is fun it also requires some planning because yard sales are almost always on Saturdays so I have to work around that. And then I have to remember where I live isn’t where my book is set. I was going to have Sarah drive to West Virginia. It’s an hour and a half from here but not from where, Sarah lives in Massachusetts. Yeesh!
This is what Barbara Ross wrote back:
Things to check (you can send this back to me on Monday when I finish my first draft which will also be too short.)
- Do you have enough red herrings—i.e. real true alternative suspects? Do some need to do something more suspicious to heighten their red-herringhood.
- Does your heroine meet enough resistance—or do people spill their guts the first time she asks them?
- Do any of the scenes need to be split up—i.e. some of the clue given earlier and some of it later? This will also give you more words because you’ll have more scene-setting to do.
I know you’ll get there.
I did get there last year and turned the book in on time. (I have the cover to prove it.) I pulled the list back out for this year. I realized I don’t have enough red-herrings. The ones I do have can be written off pretty easily – there is some obvious reason that they wouldn’t commit murder. My heroine does meet a lot of resistance. I almost wonder if it’s too much – if there can be such a thing. I’ll read back through the clues. I hope I have some. I hope they aren’t too obvious.
I’m adding this to Barb’s list – how does the scene end? I blogged last year about ending scenes. I’m going to take a look at how each scene ends, how it propels the story forward, does it leave a question in the reader’s mind that will make them want to keep reading.
I know I’ll get there — I have to get there but my, oh, my 50,0000 words.
What do you do when you feel finished but aren’t quite there?