Monday, July 15, 2013

Going short...When word count is worrisome

When I finished the first typewritten draft of Shadow of Redemption, my newest novel about a girl who hides from the world but is forced into the light to help save some people she's grown to love, I ended up with about 37,000 words. As most "authorities" in the world of YA will tell you, that's mighty short of the 50 to 55,000 word MINIMUM you need for a YA novel. "Oh, but don't look at word count," they amend. "Make sure you have a good story. If you add fillers, the readers won't read it." Well, two for two, but here's the kicker: if you don't have the minimum, the publishers won't publish it. If you add fillers, the publishers won't publish it. So....

Honestly, I'm not really worried. All I need is 13 to 18,000 words--a few more chapters--and I'm golden. I just have to make them GOOD chapters. HONEST chapters. Not simply add-ons to fill the pages. So here are my options (and I can use a combination of choices, of course!).

Option #1 - Add another point of view: Currently, the book is only from Emily's point of view. I'd prefer to keep it that way. As a reader, I get confused when the writer keeps switching POVs, but if done right, two points of view can make a book much more interesting. I have enough side material on Daniel, the other main character, (I had to, otherwise I couldn't keep up with what was going on behind the scenes), that I can easily fill out the extra word count. The only "loss" is that the reader has less tension in trying to figure out the questions about Emily's past, origins, etc., but I can create other tensions. I would prefer to create a novella tentatively called, "Shifting Perspectives: Daniel's Story" and use it as a free or cheep e-book to promote the novel. (And yes, the title is a pun and I'm not going to tell you why.)

Option #2 - Take a look at her "empty" days: Right now, there are a lot of days that Emily isn't "doing" anything. While the reader doesn't need to know how many times Emily does dishes, goes shopping, or goes to the laundry mat, there are some additional adventures I can send her on/people I can have her meet that will help her reach her ultimate decision at the end of the book. I can have her consider her past as well, but I *hates me them flashbacks* when they run too long. A little can be cool. A lot can ruin a story. If I choose this option, it HAS to work toward the main plot, otherwise it is simply filler.

Option #3 - Expand the ending: This is a tricky one. As someone who LOVES Lord of the Rings, I was one of those fans that sighed just a *tiny* bit at the extended ending sequences of Peter Jackson's last movie in the trilogy. Yes, he had a lot of plot to finish. Yes, it was masterfully done. But come on, dude. Four hours of move, no matter how good, and we're ready to take a restroom break, take a walk, and get outta there! Right now Shadow ends BOOM. Done. I like it. No discussion, no down time, just "Oh, hello! Ending! Tie up the plot and lets get some pizza!" I could write one more chapter and BETTER explain the fallout from the final confrontation, but the reader already knows what's going to happen. Why insult the reader by telling him/her what he/she knows is going to happen? This is one I'll have to think about a lot to make it work.

Option #4 - Something I haven't thought of yet: Isn't that always the option the good author takes, is the one the reader doesn't expect? So maybe there's an option I haven't thought of that's the best one.

So sometimes revision isn't cutting, it's adding. Which for me isn't hard, it's just a matter of choosing the best of the crazy wackiness that's careening around in my head. After I input all the current paper revisions, I'm going to give it to a few readers, let *them* give me suggestions for additions (hehe, didn't I say I had an option #4?) and we'll go from there. Emily is one of my favorite characters I've created to date and I can't wait to see what people think about this super introvert who's going to have fits trying to learn social skills she should have learned 10 years ago. SO fun!