Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The 30/70 Rule

It's a well known fact (at least to me) that I write over word count/page count every time. Most of my editing is cutting, trimming, tightening. So I realized, especially after reading about the average length of debut novels being no longer than 80,000 words, that I was setting myself up for extra work later on by making my word count 100,000. Not just is that too long to begin with, but even as I looked at that word-count goal, I knew that I'd overshoot it. I always do. Which is why I've decided to cut the number down to 80,000 and hopefully tighten the story as I go and I keep a stricter eye on the length of my scenes. (I could be deluding myself, but if it works, hallelujah!)

With edits in mind, I keep thinking of something Laurell K. Hamilton mentioned recently on her blog: when she first started writing, she says that about only 30 percent of what she wrote was good, but she had to write the other 70 percent to get to find that good 30 percent. When I read this, I scoffed. Only 30 percent was worth keeping! It's a good thing my average was reversed!

Or so I thought. Now, a bit more humbler as I'm back in the writing process and remembering all the edits I make even as I'm writing, and then all the subsequent edits I've made to Madison, I think I can believe in the 30/70 rule. I've trimmed so much from Madison, added so much new text, changed sentences, scenes, conversations, character names, that my original manuscript looks closer to the character/plot sketch of the final product than an actual novel. I'm already editing and rewriting Sasha, sometimes as I go, sometimes as NaNo No-No days of redoing scenes. How quickly I forgot about all the trials along the way!

And yet, I still hold out hope that with Sasha I'll have a better ratio. Maybe a 40/60 ratio of good to bad text.

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