Hitting The Ceiling

Well another NaNoWriMo is done and I got through it, by the skin of my feverish teeth, yet again. After that I needed a little time to recover (I’d managed to catch a cold on top of a recurring illness and then just when I thought I was done with them both – I got another) then I dove headfirst into editing, “In The Absence of Famine,” and between both books I’ve come to realize something.

I am not a long winded writer.

Oh sure. In the short form, I’ve written twenty page stories about family values and murder (funny, how the two of them always seem to go so well together) but when it comes to the long form I always, always come up short. I’m actually starting to wonder if there’s another ceiling besides the mythic 50,000 words that pushes your story out of the short category and into novel length. Maybe right around 100,000 words there’s another cap for the prolific novelist who can drop a couple hundred thousand words without breaking a sweat but then spends months laboriously cutting their babies down to more reasonable sizes.

It’s starting to give me an inferiority complex.

If my first draft is only 75 thousand words long and I cut some of it out in the cleaning process – suddenly it’s a struggle to keep the length from dipping back below the dreaded 50 thousand mark.

Or maybe it’s giving me an inflated head.

If my novel is so short to begin with, maybe it doesn’t need any cutting at all! I should just concentrate on writing another 25-50 thousand words of fluff to pad that bad boy out and push it right out the door.

Neither view is accurate. Both are damaging in their own rights. So I have to keep my eye on the prize: To write until the novel is done. To cut and revise till the bones gleam and are as neat and clean as they possibly could be. And then to fill in with bits of more carefully constructed prose that feels a lot less rushed and more perfectly tailored to the moment. Finally to pray that when it’s all said and done, I’ve crafted another novel that’s just that much better than the ones that came before.

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