Edith here, nearly delirious with our warming trend, the vanishing of the last piles of snow, the ability to sun my tootsies, and all the little green things popping out of the ground. Must schedule a pedicure!
Before my surgery (which went very well, thank you, and from which I am healing alarmingly fast), I finished the first draft of Grilled for Murder, the second local foods mystery, due August 1. Unfortunately, it was about ten thousand words short of the minimum specified in my Kensington contract, 75000.
This often happens with my first drafts, which tend to be a bit, well, sparse, so I wasn’t too worried about it. Within a week of my surgery I found I could sit and type for extended periods, so I am back at work finding ten thousand words. How do I do that?
The easiest way would be to realize I needed five more scenes here and there, so I went looking. I did find one empty scene, which I had labeled Thursday Lunch. My note card for it read, “Bring Tanya back in. What happens?” Oh. That wasn’t very helpful. But I started writing, brought Tanya back in, and a day later had a nice 1200-word scene with several elements of suspense and suspicion, and which connected with something I’d already written that happens later that day.
1200 down, 8800 to go. I didn’t really see any other obvious gaps in the story, though. Back to that sparseness thing. I started reading through every scene to make sure I’d included at least several senses. What does the hardware store smell like? Did I describe how the air felt on Robbie’s skin during one of her long bike rides? What did the villain’s hair look like in the final action scene? How did Abe’s rabbit stew taste at the Hoosier Hollow restaurant? And so on. That process added a couple thousand words.
I went looking for fun southern expressions that a couple of my characters can use, and found some like “Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit,” “Easier than sliding off a greasy log backwards,” and “He’s busier than a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest.”
Another trend of mine is forgetting to have people reflect, especially my protagonists. A typical refrain from my critique group is, “Wouldn’t she be thinking about what happened in the last scene?” So I did a pass through looking for that. Another 500 words. Next I’ll check all the areas that Chris Roerden mentions in her excellent, Don’t Murder Your Mystery and see what else I can fix, and make sure I’ve tied off all the red herrings and subplots.
In the process of successive read-throughs and fixes, I’m up to 69,111, with plenty of time to go. I know after I hand it off to my brilliant and trusty editor, Sherry, for a pass before I send it to my editor at Kensington, she’ll find gaps in the story I need to fill, too. I’ll also need a trimming pass as well, of course, eliminating trite words and dull language.
I know I’ll get to that magic 75000 words as I keep working on the story. If I’m a little short (hey, no jokes!), I don’t think they’ll mind too much. And remember, you can already preorder book one, Flipped for Murder!
Readers, how do you achieve the quantity you need, in writing or elsewhere in your life? Other tips for fleshing out a story? Readers, would you rather see a short cozy or a longer one? And how’s spring by you?