Around Halloween, I sent my freelance Editor, James, a precis for a story that I hoped would be, “a little longer than my usual 3,500 or so.”
He replied that I should not feel bound by the 8,000-word limit I had set in mind. “You’ve more than an 8,000-word outline here, looks to me,” he wrote back.
“Well, we’ve been playing catch with this thing since November and I am now on the brink of the 90,000-word elevation. OMG. Startled emoji. #climbingEverest. I have kept my routine intact for this long-form excursion – write every day, usually in the morning. Edit a little, but not full-out. Read segments aloud to Jan.
I’ve been sending James instalments every three or four days. He usually replies within two or three. He suggests, trims, refines, but uses small tools – the big John Deere is still in the shed.
The novel cadence, I find, is a little like a game of catch with a football. You catch, adjust the ball in your grip, line up the laces, chatter a bit, set up, take a step and toss it. Repeat.
James keeps things in bounds that tend to creep around, run aground, deafen with too much sound, and bark like a hound. Like… The plot: “You killed him?” The location: “I thought they were out in the boat, not on the dock!” Character traits: “Don’t be so soft on him. Make him a real bastard!” Style: “I’d say this is rather not Toewsian! You do well with the ands, not the short sentences, don’t be afraid!” The POV: “Why are we in Vivaca’s head?” Mechanics: “Why do you use so many semi-colons?
And now we are reaching the end. It’s scary. It’s not the REAL end, it’s the end of the first draft, James reminds, but still. Change is afoot. Hope I can still go to sleep in a rowboat adrift on Bannock Lake and wake up pushing a pick-up truck out of the snow on the side of a granite outcropping. I’ll keep talking like my characters and secretly trying out dialogue on Jan. I’ll miss the words, “hollowway, loon shit, diewel, thwart,” but there will be plenty more, I’m sure.
Things to Look Forward To:
! James cutting a broad, gory swath on his first overall read-through edit!
! Replies from Beta readers.
! Submitting edited novel excerpts to literary journals!
I expect that the summit of my first draft will be like the top of Mt. Everest — littered with lots of discarded material. I fear that, but, it’s a tough business. Pass the oxygen.