Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A pause to cut and polish

So, this week I will finish my Warhammer novel - 95,000 words of blood and thunder set in the fantasy world owned by Games Workshop. The Black Library omerta means I can't tell you much about the book's content but, hey, that's life. My original deadline was yesterday but my kindly editor Lindsey gave me an mini-extension on that. I knew life was going to get in the way a bit, what with my birthday last week and house guests for weekend and all those other things that happen when you're writing.

My target for last week was to reach 75,000 words by end of play Friday. I came up 1500 words short, so that was my first job for Saturday. Next was printing out the 139 pages of novel [10pt, 1.5 spaced text, fact fans] written up to then and sub-editing it. I can only effectively sub-edit on paper. It's the old school journo in me, but I need the physical pages in front of me to bring my best.

I can hand-sub about 20 pages an hour, so that meant seven to eight hours of sub-editing through the course of Saturday and Sunday. [Throw a hangover into Sunday, not to mention about four hours sleep after my birthday party - but it was a great party. Nearly fell asleep on Sunday afternoon, but that was exhaustion rather than anything to do with the book. The novel is my first foray into the world of Warhammer and it took me a while to find my feet. [They were at the end of my legs. No, the other end.]

Still, I'm mildly happy with what I've written so far. Trust me, mildly happy is good. Fear of hubris prevents anything more ecstatic escaping my mouth. Or, in this case, my fingers. Anyways, having done all that lovely sub-editng by hand, it was time to input the changes into the word file. That was my Sunday night, complete with matchsticks to keep the eyelids open. It's a good thing my eyes don't extend on stalks, because they'd be dragging along the floor.

So, I started work yesterday on 73,740 words - 21,260 words to go until I hit my ocntractual obligation point. Most publishers will give you a little slack on either side of the magic number. Some even give you a range within which you should finish. Right now, I feel like I'm going to overshoot by a few thousand, but I often feel like that round this stage of a novel. I always forget how fast the climax is and how fast it writes once the momentum is with me.

When I give a book the old spit and polish treatment, it can easily shave 10% off the text. Hell, my last Doctor Who novel last 23,000 words en route. The end result was shorter, tauter and better for the cuts. Kill your babies and all that jazz. Havign already subbed the first three quarters of this novel, I know there won't be that much to cut from the final week of writing, so I need to keep this tight from now on. Yesterday I got the total up to 79,000. So, not far to go now.

Three more 5000 word days and I'm bang on target. It's simply a matter of how much extra I need to finish telling the story. The novel's got a big ensemble cast and a lot has to happen between now and The End. But I'm feeling good, confidence is high and all that ra-ra enthusiasm stuff. I start back at college on Friday and need a day off on Saturday, so this book is getting gone this week. Onwards!

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